Re: Book Recs

1

Dan Brown meets all of your criteria. Maybe you should try being less true to yourself is what I'm saying.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:44 AM
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"Be smart and interesting" is in there to keep Dan Brown out.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:47 AM
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I'll just reiterate my three-years-old recommendation of Barley Patch by Gerald Murnane, though it isn't quite a "page turner". It is, however, somewhat similar in concerns to Markson's later works.

I happen to be reading Murnane's Invisible Yet Enduring Lilacs even now! It's good too.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:49 AM
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I read bits of The Martian over the shoulder of a fellow BART commuter and to say that the author isn't a deft writer is a gigantic understatement.

Maybe, ogged, you would enjoy Gun, with Occasional Music?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:50 AM
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2: I didn't read down that far.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:51 AM
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You should read I Capture the Castle because everyone should. Best narrative voice ever, female protagonist, not what you're asking for but too bad for you.


Posted by: Thorn | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:51 AM
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I will whine again, as I have been at intervals for the last couple of years, that I've almost stopped reading, and I don't understand why and it makes me sad.

I just read Glow, by Ned Beauman, which probably fits your criteria: near future thriller with designer drugs, some sex, corporate/colonialist shenanigans. And it was really quite good. But I read half of it and put it down for two weeks, and had to make an effort to make myself pick it back up. No judgment on the book, I do that now, but it's really weird for me.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:55 AM
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The works of Boris Akunin!


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:57 AM
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Oh, Angela Carter's The Magic Toyshop is kind of page-turner-y! It has a woman protagonist and sexual frisson (nb the protagonist is fifteen).


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:58 AM
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I've been enjoying Tana French's "Dublin Murder Squad" series, but alas something bad happens to a kid in the first one. The characters are complex and dynamic, there's frisson but it's only one part of the plot. I suppose they're "rote mysteries" in the sense of just being detective novels, but they're good at being what they are. They're written in first person but by a different member of the squad in each book, providing very different perspectives on shared events. They also deal with Irish events of the last fifteen years, and the politics there are foreign enough to be like an entirely new world.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:00 AM
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I've been seeing references to The Magic Toyshop for a while now, and have just realized that it's not the same book as The Moving Toyshop.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:01 AM
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Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus wasn't terrible if you're looking for hauntingly magical, in a John Crowley kind of way. But I don't think you are at all.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:04 AM
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I see that I have just been mentioning books. Oh well!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:05 AM
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but alas something bad happens to a kid in the first one

I was going to recommend Harry Potter, but for that criteria.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:06 AM
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On the drive home from Colorado, I was daydreaming about how much fun it would be to write the utter wish-fulfillment murder-mystery version of my life. Ie, use my kids' real names, set in this town, and so on. I've got a skeleton plot worked out. The one condition that I check everything else against is, "would I have fun writing this part?" Basically I want to write a personal blog with a great plot.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:07 AM
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There's some series I saw which is basically a dystopian YA novel but instead of teenage girls the protagonists are all dogs. That seems like it would be good for you.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:07 AM
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Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus wasn't terrible if you're looking for hauntingly magical

It was terrible, but not in that it lacked haunting magic.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:08 AM
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I've been seeing references to The Magic Toyshop for a while now, and have just realized that it's not the same book as The Moving Toyshop.

Well sequels often disappoint, but you should still give it a shot.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:08 AM
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16: I've read that.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:09 AM
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I think Jack Reacher novels violate every one of ogged's criteria.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:09 AM
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16: It's a series by the same people who did that "Warriors" series. I think they now have one about bears also.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:10 AM
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Fiction only? I've read that I, like many of my fellow middle-aged men*, prefer non-fiction. I could recommend some, but the list suggests that that would essentially be off-topic.

*Need I add crotchety &/or cranky? Probably not; likely inferred.


Posted by: marcel proust | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:10 AM
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20: Not true! I don't think they could be accused of getting literary about anything.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:12 AM
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My favorite book of the past few years is easily The Skies Belong to Us but I already wrote it up in its own post here:

I read The Skies Belong to Us a few months ago, and it's a marvelous read - a sort of mundane look at the 60s and 70s, because the individuals are so damn ordinary and lives so humdrum. But then, of course, they up and go hijack a plane, or they are affected by someone who does so, which is wild and dangerous and yet generally people did not get hurt. (By design - the airlines were powerfully preventing a mandate for metal detectors, because the cost of metal detectors far outweighs the cost of a dozen hijackings per year. Therefore the airlines were doing everything possible to make the hijackings safe, which meant a policy of saying yes to all demands. Which of course escalates the demands.)(Oh my god there are so many parts that I'd love to tell. My very favorite hijacking is the one which eventually led to Castro agreeing to an extradition policy with the US. One of the very last hijackings before the epidemic ground to a halt.)

Also the author Brendan Koerner popped up to say hi in the thread (after being emailed) and now I have double the love for the book.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:13 AM
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The Magic Toyshop Returns
The Magic Toyshop Goes To Paris
The Magic Toyshop: Tokyo Drift
The Magic Toyshop in Outer Space
The Magic Toyshop: Toys Gone Wild
The Magic Toyshop Now


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:15 AM
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I second the Tana French recommendation. The first book does involve some badness happening to kids, but it's not graphically depicted. My favorite is Faithful Place, which I think is the third in the series. It's not essential to read them in order.

I really liked Lily King's Euphoria. Beautifully written and very elegant.

Looking through the novels I read in the last year, I really liked Heft by Liz Moore. Interesting, recognizable characters, and pretty funny. Kind of peters out at the end though.

Station Eleven was probably the best science fiction-y book I've read in the past year.

Your mention of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot makes me think of The Circle which is lumped together with it in my mind. I didn't really like either novel, equally and for similar reasons, so maybe they're the books for you.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:16 AM
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Ogged, have you read the (often recommended by LB) Alan Furst books? I'm pretty sure they meet all your criteria. The first one (Night Soldiers) is IMO the best, but even as he got formulaic as the series went on, he still has interesting backgrounds, decent tension/intrigue, and occasional surprises (75% are almost purely formula, but that does make the rest pleasant changes).

The thing I most appreciate is that he very rarely leaves any characters--even minor ones who basically get a single scene, even bad guys--without some sense of humanizing detail. Not humanizing as in, "this was a Nazi, but a good person," but as in, "this character was a person and a Nazi."

Looking up WTF, it seems like you may want smarter than all that.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:16 AM
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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet - smart, interesting, fun. I don't remember anything bad happening to children. By the Cloud Atlas guy, but not trying so hard.

The Luminaries - Hints of literariness (it won the Booker), but not too much. Mostly just an interesting story about 19th C New Zealand.


Posted by: msw | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:16 AM
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Did you like Ready Player One?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:19 AM
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I want to read a short, absurdist story about some sort of wartime disaster caused by a misunderstanding among Allied forces between those who are saying Whiskey Tango Foxtrot and those saying Whisky Tango Foxtrot.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:20 AM
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For the criteria of smart, funny, non-literary, and nothing-bad-happens-to-children, the favorites that come immediately to mind are Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris and Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:20 AM
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For the criteria of smart, funny, non-literary, and nothing-bad-happens-to-children, the favorites that come immediately to mind are Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris and Where'd You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:20 AM
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Ogged, have you read the (often recommended by LB) Alan Furst books?

Nope, I've read one or two, but wasn't crazy about them and haven't recommended them. Either I was recommending something else, or someone else was recommending Furst.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:21 AM
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Seconding Station Eleven. Great understated book. Only mildly science fiction-y. Deals with a fictional group of people called "Canadians."

Also The Luminaries. Amazing book, and well written. Has a complex formal structure that can mostly be ignored, with the exception of the exponentially decreasing (I am using those words correctly) chapter lengths. Very Victorian-ish, but with a rugged environment you don't often see. Very long, though (I think it was the longest book to ever win the Booker) so don't expect it to be quick.


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:21 AM
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In the last Dune sequel, there is a group of Canadians in the ship as they escape. The implication is that Canadians will exist as long as humanity.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:25 AM
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I think I've said before that I loved the first 200 or so pages of the Luminaries and then just got sick of its meanderingitude and put it down with zero regret. I'm not a big reader of contemporary fiction in general but I doubt that's what Ogged is looking for. It did get me interested in New Zealand history though.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:26 AM
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You've read Stout and Chandler, right? If not, then do. Also, Mike Carey's The Girl With All the Gifts is pretty good. If you can avoid learning what (sub)genre it's in before reading it might be beneficial.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:27 AM
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||

I saw this before a while ago but I continue to love it. Possibly of interest to Roberto.

|>


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:27 AM
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Some of these look really good. Keep 'em coming! But remember the page-turner bit.

Can I say a word of thanks for kindle samples? It's such a nice, no-stress way to see if you're going to like a book, without having to buy it or go to the library.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:28 AM
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I think I've said before that I loved the first 200 or so pages of the Luminaries and then just got sick of its meanderingitude and put it down with zero regret.

I had pretty much this experience, except that "love" is too strong a word. I...admired it. I was glad to stop reading it.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:30 AM
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John LeCarre books would seem to meet all of Ogged's criteria, though they do get stupider once the Cold War ends IMO. But I binge read them in the 90s so maybe spy novels have a different valence now.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:31 AM
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Also, maybe Sara Gran. Dope, her straightforward noir, is pretty great, and I think meets all listed requirements. I also love her Claire DeWitt books, although the mystical detective aspect might disqualify them from Ogged's consideration due to his believability requirement.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:36 AM
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Page turners, eh? In addition to Boris Akunin I recommend Arturo Perez-Reverte.


Posted by: Cryptic ned | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:36 AM
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33: Oh that's weird. I strongly associate them with you.

Thinking more about it, I would strongly advise starting with Night Soldiers. Basically everything that's good in the later ones is there*, plus a lot more sense of sprawling geopolitical intrigue told from a decidedly non-Anglophone/Western Europe POV that I found engaging over and above the action aspects.

*his characterizations probably improve through the books, but not enough to compensate for the generally more straightforward narratives IMO


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:38 AM
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I will whine again, as I have been at intervals for the last couple of years, that I've almost stopped reading, and I don't understand why and it makes me sad

That has been my experience as well. I blame work (or, rather, that I can never completely turn off the voice in my head thinking about work and that makes it difficult to feel caught up in a book).


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:38 AM
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I need a meta-thread where I keep track of how much I trust each of you to match my own interests, so that I can weight your recommendations.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:39 AM
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The Judges of the Secret Court is a surprisingly engaging novel about John Wilkes Booth (as the subtitle indicates). It isn't, despite its (re)publisher, super literary-in-the-negative-sense, but it is very well written. The author also wrote potboilers in apparently a similar style.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:39 AM
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This sounds risky.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:40 AM
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Also, this is kind of funny from the OP:

Gone Girl. Meh. Too much inside-the-head of the dude and his wife, a little too much knowingness about social scenes I don't care about, and maybe there was going to be a very great twist at the end, but I bailed about halfway through.

I'm not going to defend the book very far, but it does actually have a pretty good twist that you must have just barely stopped ahead of.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:41 AM
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38 is a real time suck (in the good sense). "Conversations like this may as well be on the sodding internet."


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:42 AM
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38 is a real time suck (in the good sense). "Conversations like this may as well be on the sodding internet."

I was just referring to that very review in conversation elsewhere!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:43 AM
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I like Alan Furst and he's certainly fun if you like that kind of thing.

What is the collective Unfogged view of Norweigian Guy's My Struggle? It was forced on me by the clerk at my local bookstore (now confusingly owned by my effective boss which makes for weird times) who insisted I buy it as the greatest work ever. I started it but it seemed interesting but unreadable and I've been focusing on other even more ridiculous free time activities so put it down. Then my Dad (who I don't think was confusing it with the other My Struggle by the other guy, and who (my Dad, not Hitler) is retired and literally does nothing but read all day) went off on a confusing rant about how it was the worst book ever.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:44 AM
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38 is great.


Posted by: RT | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:47 AM
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Huh - I couldn't put The Luminaries down. It had such an interesting plot.

How about The Flamethrowers?. That was quick and interesting. Female protagonist, motorcycles, Fascists.

The Two Hotel Francforts - more fascists. And a great twist. Which I hate to mention, because it really comes out of left field.

I'm sure Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies has been mentioned here. And Norrel & Strange - although also long.

It's more lowbrow, but still smart - how about all the Parker novels by Richard Stark (aka Peter Westlake). If you've ever been watching USA at 4pm on a Sunday and thought, "This Mel Gibson vehicle is better than it has any right to be. I wonder why." (Which is - god's honest truth - how I discovered Payback).



Posted by: msw | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:54 AM
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24: And all of this happened because of me! Redemption!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:54 AM
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Lois McMaster Bujold. Really fun page turners in which there is pretty much straight military scifi but some of the strongest and most important characters are women; pregnancy is sometimes a central part of the plot (and bad things happen to a child in utero, but it's OK, he survives, and triumphs. Not literary but very nicely written and thoughtful under the very well-oiled mechanics.

Robert Charles Wilson. The chronoliths is the one that immediately springs to mind. Though trigger alert for bad parenting! "Blind Lake" is lovely, too.

An almost forgotten but witty page turner of an English thriller writer, Gavin Lyall. He was very successful, then the booze got him. After he sobered up he came back with two lovely series about quasi spooks. The ones about Major Harry Maxim flit between action and really well done satire of Whitehall bureaucracy. Then there is a series about spooks in the runup to WW1, all of which have "Honour" in the title. I like those, but not as much as the Maxim books.

"Uncle Target" a good Maxim, is on Kindle


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:58 AM
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Donald Westlake. And they are great.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:59 AM
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I liked Rachel Kushner's the Flamethrowers and Telex From Cuba, both of which I only read because my wife picked them up. They meet Ogged's criteria. She was a total ass about the Charlie Hebdo stuff which pissed me off but if you start judging writers for saying dumb things about politics you're not going to have many writers left.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 11:59 AM
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Based on my mother's recommendation I read The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel. It probably has all the stuff that ogged hates about books and also all the stuff he likes. It's a lot of book.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:00 PM
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59 -- the guy who married Mahler's widow, and ended up right before his death getting into a fight with Schoenberg when they ran into each other shopping for oranges at the Brentwood Country Mart in LA.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:02 PM
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Wait, I have that story wrong. It was Alma Mahler who got into a fight with Schoenberg at the Brentwood Country Mart.


Posted by: Roberto Tigre | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:04 PM
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If you like modern world set sci-fi, The Fold by Peter Clines was a very fast read with good action but also some thinky bits. It has science and analysis as its focus (it begins as a mystery), but just as you settle into thinking it's just unraveling the mystery action ramps up.

On Basilisk Station by David Weber is the first book of the Honor Harrington series. They're popcorn military procedurals with some gleaming hardware and tough choices, The story gets stronger in later books, but you'll quickly decide if you like Honor.

Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach is a lot of fun. Devi's a tough as nails mercenary; being a woman comes into it as expectations to overcome, but it's a pretty egalitarian future. It has interesting weird aliens and believable competition between human empires.


Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:06 PM
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I third the rec for Tana French, which I think I read because someone here recommended them? IDK, but they're great. Bad things do happen to kids in all of them though.

Also yes on Lois McMaster Bujold. Those are just plain fun. A good standalone to start with is either Falling Free if you can find it or Ethan of Athos, which is hilarious. But if you want to start with the Miles series, maybe start with Brothers in Arms or the long novella Mountains of Mourning, which is great.

I also recommend, highly, Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. I know you didn't like Case Histories, Ogged, but Life After Life is one of the top ten best books I've ever read. Warning: something does happen to a kid. But keep reading. It's not what you think.

Also: another of the top ten best books I've ever read. Sean Stewart, A Perfect Circle. Set in Houston, TX. A guy sees dead people. Maybe. (He's an unreliable narrator. I *think*.)


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:06 PM
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What is the collective Unfogged view of Norweigian Guy's My Struggle?

I would guess that there is no consensus.

I read the first 3 volumes, and I find them oddly compelling. I given up on the idea of objective literary merit, so I can't speak to that.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:07 PM
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The Fold by Peter Clines

Oh, I just read his 14, which I enjoyed, despite a few eye rolls. I should have included that in the post.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:08 PM
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The thrillers by JK Rowling ( I forget the pseudonym she uses) are good page turners. I enjoyed them more than the Potter books. Not literary, but not stupid.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:10 PM
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--Nothing bad happens to kids. No rapes.

Is the second sentence just elaborating on the first, or are these independent criteria?


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:10 PM
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9: But The Magic Toyshop is so sad, and so full of abjection! It's definitely Carter's "in desperate need of feminism but do not have it yet" book. Honestly, it's one of hers that I don't reread that regularly (whereas most of her other books I reread about once a year) because I find it really upsetting. It's a terrific novel and would be a great surprise for Ogged if we tricked him into reading it, but not funsies.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:11 PM
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Further 68: Also, the sexual frisson, though pervasive and thoughtful and weird and interesting, is messed up. Far more messed up than, say, all the probably-unacceptably-orientalist shenanigans in The War of Dreams or the trauma stuff in The Passion of New Eve.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:13 PM
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Have you looked at any of Louise Penny's mystery novels set in Quebec? They're pretty good if you go for the lifestyle porn + murder mystery thing. Plus, Canadians!


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:16 PM
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Looking through my kindle library for ogged-appropriate crackerjack middlebrow:

-- I second or third or whatever the recommendation of Glow. It's sort of a techno-thriller in tthe mold of William Gibson's present-day stuff, but starring disaffected British youth on lots of drugs and just kind of good and fun.

-- Nick Harkaway's Tigerman is sort of the same thing -- modern day, sci-fi-ish elements, moves right along. It's possible there are children in peril, but I don't recall it, and I can't deal with that shit anymore either, so I assume I would.

-- You ever read Day of the Jackal, ogged? It's great. The World's Most Competent Assasin vs. France.

-- Declare by Tim Powers is a blast -- genre-y, spy-y, smart, highly unexpected -- and best experienced cold.

-- Europe in Autumn by Dave Hutchinson is also great, and -- along the lines of Glow and Tigerman hits that sweet spot of present day thrillery fun, ably and concisely drawn characters, and a neat broadening of the "real world" into something more exciting. It has a sequel which is also good. VSOOBC others have said it is "dark" but that's just because a shitload of people die. It's a good time.

In general my advice is to just read anything snarkout and rfts tell you to read.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:18 PM
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68: Do you have an Angela Carter book you would recommend to start with?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:18 PM
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It's the only novel of Carter's that I've read. I guess it is true that it isn't particularly fun, but it's very good!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:18 PM
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Right now I'm reading A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. ogged should definitely not read this book.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:22 PM
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Sifu's list sounds very promising.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:23 PM
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Marisha Pessl's Night Film was quite good in a beach reading sort of way.

You ever read Day of the Jackal, ogged?

I know we covered this a while back but if you read The Dogs of War, not only do you get a pretty good procedural thriller, but you'll be reasonably well educated on how to stage your own military coup in a small third world country.


Posted by: AcademicLurker | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:25 PM
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57 seconded. Also John Le Carre, especially the older ones, oh 41 seconded.

I though Iain M Banks' Excession was a page-turner, fits your bill otherwise. Intergalactic email bureaucratic wrangling coupled with the possible end of everything. Jonathan Carroll might be too literary, try a few pages of Land of Laughs too see. Definitely literary, but read them anyway, Bolano's 2666 and also Savage Detectives, but 2666 is better.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:32 PM
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72: I think that her best novel is her last, Wise Children - it's satisfyingly plotted, it's funny and sad, it does all the Carter-y set pieces (costumes, Shakespeare, weird semi-magic stuff, melancholy, feminism, view-of-history-from-below), it's very thematically consistent and it sort of sends up Sprawling Family Novels and quite a lot of British arts scene stuff.

I think my favorite is probably Nights At The Circus, even though IMO it falls apart a bit plot-wise after the first big chunk. "We do believe her dream will be the coming century, and oh god, how frequently she weeps!"

I think I started with some of her short stories. The most famous ones are the fairy tales, especially the frequently-anthologized feminist-revisionist-1920s-weird-sexual-frisson-abjection "The Bloody Chamber". "Our Lady of the Massacre" is my favorite - it is an account by a woman exiled to the New World and I think of it often when I think about the history of colonialism. I also like "Ashputtle or the Mother's Ghost" and "The Snow Pavillion". I mean, I like almost all of them - with some qualms around how she writes about Japan, where she lived for a couple of years.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:33 PM
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Day of the Jackal was really good. I think I'd have liked it better if I hadn't already seen the movie (the real movie, not the Bruce Willis one). Although maybe not. I kind of knew deGaulle wasn't assassinated.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:34 PM
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Also, The Magic Toyshop is great, much more compact than her later stuff and the setting is extremely vivid. But it doesn't have as much to say, IMO, and it doesn't quite suggest the weird, firework-y explosiveness of her later work.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:35 PM
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Spoiler alert.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:35 PM
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I haven't read Day of the Jackal. Will check it out. I've read some LeCarre, and it was fine, but I can't really get into spy stuff for the same reason I can't really get into Mafia stuff: I really disapprove of those people!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:37 PM
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On Basilisk Station by David Weber

I feel like the Honor books should come with a warning that one of the characters is named "Rob S. Pierre". That right there pretty much gives you all the information you need to decide if you're going to hate them or not.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:37 PM
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So I should read them is what you're saying.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:39 PM
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On Basilisk Station is apparently free on Kindle right now. Either that or I accidentally signed up for Amazon Prime.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:41 PM
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83: Oh, I might have been able to tolerate the joke names. The rest of the books, no. (I read a bunch of them, on the theory that I read SF, and I read Napoleonic Wars naval books, and therefore I should enjoy them. No.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:41 PM
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78: Thanks, Frowner!


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:43 PM
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86: I've never read one. I've read enough people talking about them to know I'd want to throw them across the room if I did.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:45 PM
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I hear good things about John Ringo


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:48 PM
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Kind of disagree with the Lecarre recs since my best recollection is that they're 98 percent people being depressed and 2 percent advancing the plot.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:49 PM
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For so, so many reasons. It's not that I don't read terrible schlock, I do! with relish and enjoyment! But Weber made me want to kick him repeatedly in the shins.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:50 PM
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77: You're only suggesting 2666 because you know ogged won't actually read it, right?


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:52 PM
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I guess part of the 98 percent is people hating themselves and occasionally each other rather than being depressed per se.


Posted by: Tom Scudder | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:53 PM
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I second the recommendation of Declare. Powers' Last Call is also decent. The Power of the Dog and The Cartel are medium trashy but very well researched novels about the Mexican cartels. I think a kid gets hurt in there somewhere, but it's brief and painless.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 12:58 PM
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I was trying to come up with the least appropriate recommendation given ogged's criteria but I don't think I can possibly beat 2666 (which I loved!).


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 1:03 PM
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I like most of the works of Charles Stross. Very little bad stuff happening to children. But admittedly, not nothing. If you need a starting point, The Atrocity Archives.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 1:13 PM
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95: I was thinking that too. The Patrick Melrose novels might provide some competition.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 1:17 PM
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92,95. I'm a rebel. Also, since Knausgaard came up and there was a question about books interesting to other people than ogged, I figured I'd add the title of something I liked with a disclaimer so as not to mislead.

All of that said, 2666 I thought was definitely a page-turner, and I didn't think the prose was at all literary. Kids do get hurt though.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 1:18 PM
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The Expanse series is page-turning and somewhat smart space opera. And the first book in the series, Leviathan Wakes, in particular also has a detective story angle. So far it has successfully held my attention through the first four books of the series.


Posted by: Airedale | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 1:26 PM
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On a more appropriate thread:

Oh hey, ogged, have you read William Gibson's The Peripheral? It hits the notes you're talking about -- moves right along, non-craven worldbuilding, smart female protagonist sketched competently enough -- and is generally his best in a while. It might have some deeper meaning lurking somewhere in there but it's buried deep. It does have the Gibson style of throwing you right into jargon-y future-things with minimal exposition, which turns some people off, but which I happily just roll with.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 1:30 PM
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I read a fabulous A Carter story that was a prologue to A Midsummer Night's Dream but haven't been able to track down which collection it was published in ever since, anyone know?

I once read a Furst book when on vacation, was out of other things to read and on a boat or something, anyways he seemed to have difficulty with the strong independent woman in sex scenes. Not that the women weren't strong independent etc but that engineering the build up to sex seems difficult for the author to navigate so skipped it by the male protag somehow inadvertently initiating sex or being unconscious when the sex begins. It struck me because I'd seen the same thing in a similarly historical based mystery by Parot, and I think of it as a problem endemic to what I characterize as grandpa mysteries. Need those strong independent women! But can't figure out how to choreograph realistic mutual seduction!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 1:43 PM
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maybe there was going to be a very great twist at the end

indeed


Posted by: cleek | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 1:51 PM
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Haven't read the whole thread, but I know we share similar preferences w.r.t. books, but just chiming in to say I hated Gone Girl, and you should read Station 11, by Emily St. John Mandel.

The Martian isn't deftly written, but it's a lot of puzzle scifi fun without being weirdly misogynist.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 1:54 PM
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The Patrick Melrose books are actually page turners but otherwise maximally NSFO


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 1:58 PM
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Yes to Declare and Last Call. They have been endorsed here before.

I'll add Greg van Eekhout's California Bones trilogy. Page turners. Some children risked, but doesn't feel real. The Melrose books OTOH...in the 1st one the risk to child is harrowing.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 2:14 PM
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I've quite enjoyed the two novels I have read so far in Eliot Pattison's series about a disgraced, imprisoned Chinese investigator in Tibet.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 2:19 PM
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(106 on the assumption that Ogged isn't man enough is too refined and evolved for the magnificent and unimpeachable privileged and colonialist Aubrey-Maturin series, which I should think meet his idiosyncratic criteria.)


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 2:21 PM
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What would be good William Gibson to read if you thought Neuromancer was kind of meh, but liked the short stories in Omni with the same setting.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 2:30 PM
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Other short stories in Omni with the same setting.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 2:31 PM
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108: assuming you've read the rest of his short stories (collected in Burning Chrome) you could try Count Zero (I think it's better than Neuromancer, personally), you could jump right to The Peripheral (which combines his astuteness about the present with his facility with invented futures better, I'd say, than just about anything else he's written) or you could try one of the other trilogies; the Bridge trilogy never really imprinted on me despite some cool aspects, and the Blue Ant trilogy (the present-day one) is great but veers (charmingly) into aging-ex-hippie-who-hates-the-bush-administration-but-thinks-the-kids-especially-but-not-exclusively-including-japanese-denim-fetishists-are-alright fan-service.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 2:43 PM
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William Gibson thinks Flippanter is alright?


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 2:44 PM
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William Gibson and Flippanter would likely be deeply simpatico on fashion-related matters. (Pretty sure this has come up before, and Flip is aware?)


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 2:46 PM
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101: I think you're talking about "Overture and Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night's Dream", which was in Saints and Strangers, but is also reprinted in Burning Your Boats, a collection of all her short stories.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 3:11 PM
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101: I think you're talking about "Overture and Incidental Music for A Midsummer Night's Dream", which was in Saints and Strangers, but is also reprinted in Burning Your Boats, a collection of all her short stories.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 3:11 PM
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111, 112: We're simpatico, clearly.


Posted by: Flippantergawker | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 3:18 PM
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I have no idea how my name got lengthened there.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 3:19 PM
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||

Gonna be in Boston Dec 26th/27th if anyone is interested in a meetup.

||>


Posted by: Criminally Bulgur | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 3:28 PM
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101.2 is very true. His female characters vary widely, and I don't think more than 2 or 3 really qualify as protagonist-ish. I mean the POV character is always a male*, but sometimes the main female character is just another secondary character he happens to like/fuck, while other times she's basically another protagonist. But either way, the sex varies from so euphemistic as to be vague all the way to surprisingly non-vague and dirty. Which, OK, but is weird coming from a guy who's writing like grandpa (which is a perfect characterization).

But as we've discussed before, sex scenes are notoriously hard to write, threading the needle between pointless titillation and prudishly vague/underwritten. IIRC, Furst has written at least one or two that IMO did a truly decent job, a couple believable details and then on to morning.

*which is fine from a male writer, and preferable to clumsy attempts IMO.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 3:30 PM
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115, 116: I was trying to figure out if Gibson was reliably chronicled in Gawker.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 3:34 PM
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I'm on the Station Eleven bandwagon, although it barely meets the page turner criterion. Worth savoring, too. I really liked Fives and Twenty-Fives, a "back from Iraq" war novel by Michael Pitre.

And this may stretch the bounds of ogged's criteria, but try This Angel on My Chest, a short story collection by Leslie Pietrzyk that won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize from Pitt. It's a strange construct (each of the stories is about a different young widow) but is fast-moving and has surprising variety (full disclosure - I know the author).


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 3:36 PM
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119: Why would they make an exception for him?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 3:37 PM
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90, 93: The thing about le Carré's novels (particularly the early ones) is that they were written as a deglamorized counterpoint to the James Bond novels, by someone who had actually worked for MI6. George Smiley is essentially the anti-Bond. Instead of a glamorous womanizing playboy action hero, he's a shlumpy bureaucrat in a world of grey and black morality who can't even keep his own wife satisfied, who succeeds by patiently putting the little clues together until he's figured out what's going on.


Posted by: Dave W. | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 3:57 PM
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"So, the clitoris is the key!"


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 4:03 PM
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"Also, managing not to resemble a frog might help."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 4:04 PM
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112 *&* 113: thanks!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 4:17 PM
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118: haven't read enough either furst or parot to have any opinion re overall quality of frisky scenes I just noticed a couple over a few books where the make protagonist is actually unconscious or otherwise incapacitated when the sex starts and that seemed hilariously motivated by the authors' inability to imagine how an independent strong etc woman would, I mean, how does this work anyways?!?!?? Hallmark of the modern grandpa mystery! But you know sample size of like 3 and not my kind of book anyways so subject to snark bias etc.

The overlap of ogged's criteria and mine is pretty much invisible to the nekkid eye! I could offer warnings perhaps?


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 4:26 PM
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I remember greatly enjoying Angela Carter's journalistic pieces on Japan, although when I read them I had only been in the country a few years myself and might feel differently on rereading now. But anyone who can start a piece with "Somebody stole the blueprint for hell and, with it, they built Nagoya" is basically sound.


Posted by: Ume | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 4:30 PM
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Springer's Progress has good "frisky" scenes.

1982 Janine has, hm, let's call them vividly imagined sex scenes (though admittedly I've only read the book once, around 16 years ago). In the back matter to Every Short Story Alasdair Gray reveals that the "frisky" components actually originated in a work of straight-up pornography that he decided to incorporate into an otherwise non-pornographic novel.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 4:34 PM
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126: No, as I say, you're not all wrong. Bias aside, you may have gotten a particularly inept sample, but there are, no question, some head-scratchers.

Both with books and TV shows, I've found very little ability to extrapolate from my tastes. To some extent music as well. Like, there will be a specific thing that really grabs me, but very similar things barely interest me at all. Tull is my favorite band, but there's not really any other prog that I like more than any other given band. Furst is the only genre fiction I've been into in forever. Archer and BSG forever, but Bob's Burgers or Firefly? Meh.

TBH, not all that different from how I feel about people.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 4:41 PM
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If one were reading porn, and the sex scenes seemed restrained, what would be the obverse adjective to "frisky"?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 4:42 PM
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Tantric?


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 4:49 PM
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Sedate?


Posted by: bill | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 4:52 PM
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Languorous.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:00 PM
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Boring.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:04 PM
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I've been reading a fair amount of Alistair Reynolds lately -- midway through his far future holy-crap-aliens-showed-up-no-bad-aliens Revelation Space space opera series; Ogged might prefer the one-and-done Century Rain, which is essentially a time travel novel, narrated by historian from the future and a resident of the preserved-in-amber duplicate of Earth that the future has discovered.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:05 PM
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Rachel Kushner's the Flamethrowers

I thought this was really good, in fact.

In terms of actually matching Ogged's stated requirements, I've also been reading a bunch of Russ Thomas's crime novels from the '70s, which are not as good as Westlake in either serious or silly mode (or as good as top-notch Elmore Leonard), but what is? Briarpatch, The Fools in Town Are on Our Side, etc. What about Lauren Groff's Arcadia? I liked that a lot (but thought her debut novel was unreadably dull, so I haven't bothered picking up the most recent one); it's about a kid born on a commune in upstate New York in the '60s and his life through old age. Not super-plotty like a crime novel, but there's plenty of incident.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:12 PM
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Urgent.


Posted by: Opinionated Foreigner | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:13 PM
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I mean, Elmore Leonard, Donald Westlake, and George Higgins are pretty much the best crime writers ever, right? Not measuring up to them is no crime.

If people do have recommendations for crime novels that stack up against those guys, I'm all ears.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:16 PM
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Seconding: Declare; Where'd You Go, Bernadette?; L. M. Bujold; Patrick O'Brian (all with great enthusiasm); Charlie Stross and Alan Furst (both reliably fun, though if you like Furst you should look up Eric Ambler, who did it earlier, and better, but with less sex); The Night Circus (good enough).

Pointedly not seconding: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.

You-have-got-to-be-kidding-me-ing: David Weber; John Ringo

Also: Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle [where bad things do not happen to children]); Linda Nagata (The Red; her harder science fiction is probably not to Ogged's taste); Ken MacLeod, The Restoration Game; Wolf Hall (unless dying of randomness illness counts as bad things happening to children); Elif Shafak, The Architect's Apprentice; Lauren Beukes (The Shining Girls, Broken Monsters --- they violate the bad-things-happening-to-kids rule but I think they're worth it); Ben Aaronovitch's "Peter Grant" series; Memed, My Hawk; Elizabeth Bear's series beginning with Range of Ghosts; Jenny White's mystery series set in late-Ottoman Istanbul; Shamini Flint's mystery series set in Narnia and environs; Tarquin Hall's Delhi mysteries; sometime-commenter Felix Gilman (Thunderer; The Half-Made World; Rise of Ransom City; The Revolutions); Andrea Camilleri's Sicilian mysteries; Lauren Willig's historical romance novels; Ann Leckie's Ancillary Justice et seq.; Nilanjana Roy's The Wildings; anything by Paula Volsky (more recently publishing as Paula Brandon); Tea Obreht, The Tiger's Wife; Nick Harkaway, Angelmaker (haven't read his others but would); Victor
LaValle, The Devil in Silver; Paul McAuley, The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun; Walter Jon Williams, This Is Not a Game and sequels; the ridiculously long-running, but reliably entertaining, mystery series by Jane Haddam and by Margaret Maron; Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series.


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:20 PM
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In other news, while nothing is worse than grading, writing letters of recommendation is competitive.


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:21 PM
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Bruce Sterling, Islands in the Net (Amusingly optimistic near future).
C.J. Cherryh, Rider at the Gate and Cloud's Rider (Bad things are done by children).
Al Reynolds FTW.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:25 PM
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139: Angelmaker is markedly not as good as the other two Harkaway books I've read (does he have a fourth one now? Tigerman and The Gone-Away World), so if you liked that, you should read his other work. Also (unless dying of randomness illness counts as bad things happening to children) God so crushing :(


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:26 PM
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Declare and Bujold are great. Harkaway and Gilman, meh; they seemed like the sort of thing I ought to like but... weren't. Eastern Approaches is a book everyone should read - lots of derring do, great writing style. Wolf Hall. Restoration Game is OK but Night Sessions is far better as the Fall Revolution trilogy. The Peripheral.Anathem. The Cruel Sea. Hornblower and all other CS Forester especially The Ship. Nonfiction: Tom Holland's The Shadow of the Sword. Ann Leckie, yes, also Paul McAuley, The Quiet War, Gardens of the Sun, Pasquale's Angel. Cyrano de Bergerac.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:33 PM
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Lauren Beukes (The Shining Girls, Broken Monsters --- they violate the bad-things-happening-to-kids rule but I think they're worth it)

Huh, the two Beukes books I haven't read! If you want Beukes but without the bad-things-happening-to-kids (and with a female protagonist), Zoo City is really good.


Posted by: Josh | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:34 PM
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More Nixon tomorrow. too late and too btocked.


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:37 PM
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Thanks, folks. This thread should keep me busy for a good long while. Or I'll come to hate you all anew. We'll find out!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:47 PM
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Determining whether someone prefers hornblower or aubrey/maturin yields valuable info.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:48 PM
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147: sounds frisky.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:49 PM
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Aughh, I hated The Shining Girls with a passion.

I'm currently between books 3 and 4 of the Elena Ferrante Neapolitan novels. So far they're terrific -- long and meandering and soap-opera-y in a way that I really like (although Ogged might not), with intensely honest observations about friendship and early adulthood.


Posted by: jms | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 5:52 PM
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Oh boy have I read some dreck recently. I am looking through my library account to see what I have liked.

The first to come to mind is The Whistling Season by Doig. In the end, the plot didn't interest me, but three young brothers going to school on the Nebraska frontier were very engaging. I did laugh and so did my sister.

... it is really horrifying how much I don't remember many of the genre books I read recently.

Maybe Couch by Parzybok? Three contemporary dudes are dragged on a sorta-magical mission by a couch.

I liked The Goblin Emperor by Addison a whole lot. Straight up fantasy. A lost scion becomes emperor with no preparation.

More straight-up fantasy: I have really liked the Dagger and Coin series by Abraham. Book five of five is due out in March. Four? Five? main characters, among whom is a heroine who aspires to be a banker and uses banking techniques to influence events.

I don't think I'm matching Ogged's criteria well, but I found these very read-able.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:00 PM
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2nd CS Forrester and Beukes, Zoo City and Moxyland.
Also The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill is very readable and truly excellent.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:01 PM
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Count me as pro-LeCarre, though its true that the Cold War stuff is better than the not Cold War stuff. Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy is probably the best one to start with, as it leads into the Karla Trilogy. Also, if you read the book, the movie is a lot easier to understand.


Posted by: Spike | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:03 PM
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You know what book is awesome? The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene, that's what book. How have you lot recommended this many books without mentioning him? It should be noted that Power is my favorite Greene, not necessarily the one I think ogged would like best, although it does take place in his ancestral homeland.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:06 PM
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(Amusingly optimistic near future)

Honest to god, in daily life I am inveterately positive and optimistic, but I think an actual story about a positive near future for humanity would make me stabby. I don't see any realistic path to anything but shit and muck, and a fantasy alternative is just bitter mockery.

I'm extra grumpy tonight, so it's possible I don't believe 100% of this. But 85% for sure.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:15 PM
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Linda Nagata

I read Memory this autumn and really enjoyed it. I wouldn't count it as particularly hard-SF, but the first half has a lot of world-building which is interesting but slow going (and then it turns into a quest story)


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:15 PM
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If it makes you feel better, Jroth, the book is old enough that it imagines the cutting-edge tools of fax machine and videoconference as genuinely important to providing a more democratic and interconnected world.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:17 PM
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See, I'm cynical and bitter in daily life. Fewer disappointments that way.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:20 PM
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And VC is done mostly by pre-recorded messages transmitted at midnight. Because bandwidth is so expensive, you know.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:23 PM
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147: Hornblower all the way.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:27 PM
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156: Oh my god that doesn't help.

In retrospect, any story about better communication leading to better governance seems like a baby story. "And once the people started talking to each other, all the mean and rich people just gave up."

I mean, I get that positive, hopeful things like BLM are blossoming because of new communication, but it all seems like tales of how, once the native Americans developed better bowstrings, they drove the Europeans into the sea. We're getting our asses kicked, and incremental or generational change are too slow.

Christ, I need to go offline or something.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:40 PM
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70: I was going to recommend the Inspector Gamache novels as well--I binged through the whole series this summer.


Posted by: J, Robot | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:43 PM
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160.2: A minor point in the wonderful Richard Powers novel Gain.


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:45 PM
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155: I haven't read that one; I was thinking of her even older books, like Deception Well and Vast (which Alastair Reynolds, among others, claims as inspirations).


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:50 PM
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161: who doesn't love thick, rich chocolate?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 6:50 PM
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I was thinking of her even older books, like Deception Well and Vast.

Vast is the only other book of hers that I've read, and I loved it and recommended it to many people. But it was definitely mind-bending (particularly starting with it, and not reading any of the preceding books). It took me a long time to read another of her books because Vast was very good but so quirky I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But I was happy that, as it turned out, Memory was good and completely different.


Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:01 PM
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159: yep!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:09 PM
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159, 166: And here I felt like I understood where the two of you were coming from.


Posted by: Cosma Shalizi | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:24 PM
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I didn't expect to have read a single book or series mentioned in a thread like this, but I did read the Hornblower series, albeit in HS. I liked them, and remember a lot from them, but I can't make any comparisons with other series.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:25 PM
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Boy, you're tough to please, ogged (cough onion fan cough). Have you tried Mick Herron's Dead Lions? I did see your caveat about spy people; these are spy people whom spy people disapprove of...


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:32 PM
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For those of you who are not ogged, I have recently enjoyed Mark Haddon, The Red House, and Giles Foden, Turbulence.


Posted by: slolernr | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:34 PM
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Slol!!!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:39 PM
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Neb!!1!


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:43 PM
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I was deeply impressed a few years ago by Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad but re-read it recently with very mixed feelings. There's so many great parts, things that hit you in the gut, but then there's a lot of . . . kind of bad satire? In at least one instance with Africans as a source of stock characters? Occasionally amusing still, but mostly not? And very heteronormative. I must admit was sort of brave to write a book with a relationship to technology that was guaranteed to age badly--she had a chapter as PowerPoint slides, etc. They already look kind of dated, but she makes them absurd enough at times to signal that she knows/doesn't care this will happen.

But I keep going back to it because the good parts are really good. Problematic favs.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:48 PM
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Also, this video is the best.


Posted by: JL | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:50 PM
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slolrnr!!1! and neb!1!!
I unreservedly endorse 106 and 107.
138: no, ross macdonald is the best.


Posted by: alameida | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 7:55 PM
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Eric Ambler, especially the first five, if you don't mind being dated and a less terse style than Elmore Leonard. You won't find yourself underlining memorable phrases like Raymond Chandler (Santa Ana winds and wives with sharp knives et al) but Ambler's stories snap. I'd say a dead cert for anyone who likes Hitchcock and almost certainly a bad steer for anyone who doesn't. I tried to "search" the comments to see if anyone else mentioned him but couldn't figure out how. I second LeCarre, also Len Deighton. And it may be hard to believe for people who've only read his more moralistic tales, but Graham Green's entertainments (This Gun for Hire, in particular) could fit Ogged's requirements.


Posted by: No longer Middle Aged Man | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 8:06 PM
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147. hornblower/bush or aubrey/maturin, really one doesn't have to choose.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 8:09 PM
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Seconding Forrester's The Ship. It's like the core of The Cruel Sea, another worthwhile book.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 8:16 PM
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138, 175.last Another Ross who is the best is the Ross who was Ross Thomas. The Rosses have it.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 8:18 PM
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117: Yes, but only on the 27th for me.


Posted by: Kreskin | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 8:22 PM
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110: Thanks! I don't think I've read everything in the Burning Chrome collection. I just used the Omni scans of some stories that were on the Internet Archive, like a cheapskate.


Posted by: fake accent | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 9:23 PM
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I see that Ross Thomas was already mentioned above in snarkout's 136 though o rate him higher than that. Nice mix of where the shady political meets the seedy criminal underworld.


Posted by: Barry Freed | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 9:54 PM
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Too many books.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 9:58 PM
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privileged and colonialist Aubrey-Maturin series

I love the Aubrey-Maturin series. It's like a manlier version of Jane Austen! (and my favourite Austen novel is Persuasion, so Aubrey-Maturin pushes all the right buttons for me).

Yes to anything by Kate Atkinson, with the notable exception of Emotionally Weird, which was just too, well, weird for my bourgeois, middlebrow sensibilities (I bailed on that book halfway through). Life After Life is astonishingly good, and A God in Ruins is, if anything, even better (though some readers hate the ending).

Lately I've been getting into Scandinavian noir (in English translation, of course). Karin Fossum is my current fav. Dark secrets; shocking crimes; creepy undercurrents beneath a bland surface of normalcy; ... and all set against the cold and uncompromising bleakness (but also beauty) of a northern landscape. Kind of reminds me of my home and native land, I guess, and definitely makes me want to visit Norway.

I also love Tana French's Dublin Murder Squad series (especially Faithful Place, which seemed psychologically and emotionally 'real,' or convincing, to me). And I will read anything by Sophie Hannah, even though, in her most recent works, she seems to be phoning it in.

Anything by Sarah Waters, and The Paying Guests is just fantastic. Narrative tension, period detail, and psychological realism: historical fiction minus the costume drama!


Posted by: Just Plain Jane | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:09 PM
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Lots of sexy sex in Sarah Waters, too.


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 1-15 10:13 PM
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Seraphina: Young Adult fantasy---world in which dragons and humans cohabit, some years after the peace treaty between them. Dragons take on human form to move among them--especially as academics. They're really into math and music. Just really solid and well-crafted and evenly paced and satisfying.


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 12:21 AM
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(I only seemingly totally ignored your requirements, b/c I think they are only violated technically)


Posted by: Saheli | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 12:23 AM
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I don't read much fiction, but it occurs to me that The Yiddish Policemen's Union satisfies ogged's criteria, especially the page-turner one. I found some aspects of it annoying in some ways, but overall it's a very good alternate-history detective story. I haven't read any of Chabon's other books but I suspect at least some of them are the same way.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 12:37 AM
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Good, overlooked Scandi Swedish crime writers: Johan Theorin, Åsa Larsson -- the second set in the very high north, round Kiruna. I love her, not just for the landscape, though I love that.

I need to stock my Kindle for a trip to New Zealand, I've just realised, and will plunder this thread, and Cosma's stuff, quite shamelessly.

Agree with ajay about the excellence of The Night Sessions but for reasons I don't understand the most satisfying Ken MacLeod novel is for me Newton's Wake.

The Bridge trilogy grew with rereading, and contains the single best description of the contemporary media landscape:

"Anything that might be of interest to Slitscan. Which is to say, Laney, anything that might be of interest to Slitscan's audience. Which is best visualized as a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed. Personally I like to imagine something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth, Laney, no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote. Or by voting in presidential elections."

The Peripheral is extremely good but it took me at least a hundred pages to work out what the fuck was going on. Some people aren't worried in the least by that.

Count Zero is very much better than Neuromancer.

A classic of enchanting silliness is Jack Vance's "The Blue World". The strap line is "God lives under the sea ... and he's hungry". If that grabs you, there's bound to be a cheap Kindle version.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 2:20 AM
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But not so cheap they forget to close the tags.


Posted by: NW | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 2:21 AM
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153. Yes, Greene is well worth exploring if you're unfamiliar with him. Somewhat uneven, but prolific enough that he wrote many great books.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 4:13 AM
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I never read him, but I should. They once made a movie of one of his books and it starred Brendan Frasier. I really liked "The Mummy" so I'll probably like Greene books.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 5:10 AM
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You-have-got-to-be-kidding-me-ing: David Weber; John Ringo

For the record, I totes was.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 5:16 AM
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I've been awake for three hours already.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 5:21 AM
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And still not getting very far on account of some fog or something.


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 5:48 AM
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re: Furst

The first two or three, maybe even the first four, are really great -- Dark Star, and Night Soldiers in particular -- then there's a longish plateau of really-not-as-good but entertaining and formulaic quasi-pastiches of the first few, and then a real drop off in quality into really lazy formula. I found the last few genuinely insulting to me as a reader.

I'd recommend William Ryan's 'Korolev' books, which are detective novels set in the Stalinist purges. The writing is pretty good, and the plots move along nicely. I've also been enjoying, but not finished, Ray Celestin's Axeman's Jazz. Ben Aaronovitch's 'magic cop' novels, set in London, are decent. As are Paul Cornell's other 'magic cop' novels (London Falling, etc), also set in London, which are quite different in tone. Darker, more noticeably 'urban'.

Stuart MacBride's Scottish police procedurals/detective novels are very good, and genuinely funny (in a dark way). I'm pretty sure there are some nasty crimes involving children, and there are definitely sex crimes, although they aren't lascivious or exploitative in tone, I don't think.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 5:52 AM
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I love the Aubrey-Maturin series. It's like a manlier version of Jane Austen!

Wooden ships and iron men with feelings!


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 6:52 AM
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189. There's quite a lot of good Vance: The Dying Earth sequence, for example.

Let me also add to the Tim Powers list The Stress of Her Regard: vampires and poets!

Ken MacLeod's Engines of Light trilogy is great page-turning fun. Squids in space! Starts with Cosmonaut Keep.


Posted by: DaveLMA | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 7:15 AM
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I am back to reading novels a little bit after taking a break of 15 years or so. The target is books in the 150-250 page range. The best so far has been Renata Adler's speedboat and Dick's "The man in the high castle".


Posted by: lemmy caution | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 7:39 AM
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I read the Hornblowers before any of the Aubreys, and as a result I found the Aubreys a bit derivative - the same stuff, talkier, with the same seadog and intellectual characters but swapped over - brainy Hornblower is in charge, with seadog Bush as his 2IC, seadog Aubrey is in charge, with brainy Maturin as the ship's quack.

I second The Ship, though. It's the very best of British propaganda, and it's basically hard historical fiction in the way you can be hard science fiction. Even if we actually lost the battle it describes.


Posted by: Alex | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 8:22 AM
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Oh, I forgot all about Scandinavian noir!

Yrsa Sigurdottir is great. Kind of mystery, kind of ghost stories, set in Iceland.

Also, I just can't recommend Eleanor Arnason's The Hidden Folk enough. Also set in Iceland.


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 8:23 AM
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Re sex scenes: Samuel Delany writes the only good sex scenes. All else is, as mentioned above, usually either inexplicit to the point of ineffectiveness or coyly titillating - and one prefers porn that admits it's porn - and usually misogynist as well.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 8:47 AM
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as mentioned above

Nuh uh!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 8:48 AM
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Going waaay back upthread:

You should read I Capture the Castle because everyone should

I have! It's great!


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 8:52 AM
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184: ?????? sometimes I can't avoid seeing clearly how my experience of Austen is so very different from what seems to be the norm. Good Behaviour by Molly Keane is my idea of a modern Austen. Really not not not the Aubrey-maturin books.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 9:01 AM
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205. Good point. ogged should probably read Molly Keane.

Which reminds me! J.G.Farrell, particularly Troubles and The Singapore Grip. (I find Siege of Krishnapore the weakest of the trilogy.)


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 9:10 AM
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Wow i would not think ogged would like good behavior!

I found capture the castle way too twee so you see I really can only offer warnings.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 9:13 AM
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200, 205: A/M started out derivative of Hornblower in the way you describe, but got less so. (Also, some selfconscious "No I'm not imitating Hornblower" moves. Hornblower's tonedeaf, so Jack's a musician. Hornblower's a mathematical prodigy, so Jack's bad at math until a couple of books in, when O'Brien realizes that it makes no sense for a successful captain to be bad at math, and fixes him.)

There were certainly intentional gestures toward Austen -- O'Brien steals Austen's only anal sex joke.

But overall, I didn't like the way O'Brien handles the social stuff and the characterization -- I found it jarringly anachronistic. I read them ages and ages ago, so I'm not primed to nitpick in detail, but I was getting thrown out of my suspension of disbelief way too often.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 9:15 AM
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(Not that Forester isn't anachronistic, but it bothered me less somehow.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 9:34 AM
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By the way, when do you all find time to read?

This is not a rhetorical question. I love reading, but I find it very difficult to carve out the time to do it. For the married, partnered, or otherwise romantically entangled among you, do you & your sig. other have a mutually agreed upon time to turn off the TV and pick up your respective books? Or do you have an "I'll sit here and read my book while you go do something else" arrangement? Or do you always carry a book around and read a few pages whenever you have five minutes to spare?


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 9:48 AM
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Back when I read more, it was a combination of the last one (I can do a surprising number of simple household tasks without looking and one-handed, if you don't care how they turn out) and a long public transportation commute.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 9:51 AM
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What do you find particularly anachronistic about them? Both of them in their early novels (and O'Brien throughout the series) draw heavily on the career of Thomas Cochrane, which was admittedly fairly startling, but did happen, in that time frame.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 9:51 AM
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No tv. Reading compatible with listening to outrageous amounts of music. Takes me a long time to finish things bc work too much, but I'm persistent.


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 9:54 AM
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I'll pick up a book and sometimes get far in it when someone else's phone call or tv choice requires me to leave the room.

But the daily train ride is the most reliable reading time I've had for years now, and accounts for a high proportion of my completed reading. I do try to have something whenever waiting might be part of a process, as at doctors.

The issue of when to read is not recent. In Hazlitt's essay on the intellectual Horne Tooke he refers to how much reading Tooke accomplished on coach rides and while waiting.


Posted by: idp | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 9:59 AM
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Social stuff, interpersonal relationships. I'm stale on the details, so I can't defend it, but Diana Villiers made no sense to me in the period. Not the broad strokes: Becky Sharpe (although admittedly not written contemporaneously herself) was just as much of an adventuress, so you could have done a character like that in some ways, but the way people reacted to her didn't work.

Seperately, Maturin annoyed me. He's a brilliant doctor/scientist/spy, and after he's been living on ships for years, he's still referring to the pointy bit in the front? That's cartoon level characterization.

And just a million little things I don't remember in detail.

(With Hornblower, what struck me as anachronistic were the occasional musings on political freedom where Forester had clearly crossed out "Hitler" to write in "Napoleon". Not that a ship's captain of the era wouldn't have had strong feelings about Napoleon, but not exactly those strong feelings.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:00 AM
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212: I've no opinion on anachronisms chez aubrey-maturin but I feel strong that if I want that much info on 18c brit naval ships I'll reread wooden world. Which come to think of it I may do, it's a good book!


Posted by: dairy queen | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:05 AM
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210: On public transportation, as other people have said. So for me, how much I read varies seasonally, because I bike to work when it's practical and take the bus when it's not and it's practical a lot more often in the summer.

Beyond that, I might sometimes read books around the house, but very rarely. Between TV, my smartphone, and computer games, there are a lot of distractions and a lot of them are more grabbing than a novel. But books by authors I love will keep me more entertained than that stuff until the first time I finish them.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:06 AM
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I read after dinner, usually. But less and less fiction, at least of the "literary" variety.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:10 AM
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To the OP, have you considered comics? Depending on how strict you are on "bad things", there are loads of good ones that would meet your criteria and they make very good page turners by virtue of needing a cliffhanger every issue.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:22 AM
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No TV, or at least very little -- Dr. Skull and I follow a couple of shows, which we binge watch over holiday weekends, usually. And he watches his own shows with his earphones on.

Other than that, no TV, so evenings and (some) late nights are given to reading. As in, wow, look at that, it's midnight, I should be in bed. It's one, it's two, wow, it's Regret O'Clock, and here I am, still reading, oh, well, I'll sleep when I'm dead.

(What's that? I am NOT a junkie. I can quit reading anytime I want!)


Posted by: delagar | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:25 AM
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210: Much like 220, I read while she plays video games; it's a way to be together on the couch but not just watching TV. Watching TV is the biggest threat to reading; it's easy to lose two or three hours together over dinner and into the evening.

We do enjoy "boy lap" time, where we both read on our L-shaped couch; I sit with my my legs extended, then she lays down perpendicular to me with her head on a pillow in my lap, each of us reading. Weekend bliss!


Posted by: Mooseking | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:36 AM
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Two more! I liked these enough to buy them after I read them from the library. That's my strongest recommendation.

Both are real world fiction; both are essentially the fable form.

Trustee from the Tool Room by Nevil Shute. A not-very-worldly English guy from the 1950's has to recover a niece's inheritance. He keeps following the next step and drawing on resources that he didn't know he had until he solves what he can. The close description of the technology of the late 1950's is great.

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Same author as Anne of Green Gables, which I haven't read (so maybe this is very typical of Montgomery and if you've read Green Gables it doesn't offer you much new). A young woman learns she has only a year to live and is abruptly done following middle class conventions. Lots of good writing about being in nature.

My other recs are fine, but I'd put these two higher.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:55 AM
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I used to read every day on my subway commute. Ive read almost no books since I started commuting by car. I try to read sometimes before bed, but it makes me fall asleep.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:55 AM
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Re "watching tv is the biggest threat to reading," mindless internet browsing has rank right up there. For me personally, it's worse--tv usually bores me quickly and I'll start to read. Internet, not so much.


Posted by: urple | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:58 AM
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224: Yeah, that. There's always one more place to check for new content.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 10:59 AM
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For me, podcasts are the biggest threats to reading. I can watch TV while doing other stuff, including reading, but I can't listen to podcasts and concentrate on anything else (cooking and certain mindless video games are OK). So as my podcast listening has increased my reading has fallen off a cliff.


Posted by: Ginger Yellow | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 11:20 AM
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Oh, that too. Knitting/podcasts has beaten out reading on my commute, because I can't really knit and read. (Almost -- it's a mechanical problem rather than an attention problem. But holding the book and turning pages just doesn't quite work.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 11:24 AM
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Friends and unindicted co-conspirators have been doing a good bit of what you ask for over at The Frumious Consortium. I think there's enough overlap in tastes that you'd find the thoughts useful.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 4:16 PM
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Reminds me that I should continue with "Mort".


Posted by: Moby Hick | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 4:18 PM
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Lifehack: read while pooping.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 12- 2-15 8:28 PM
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Social death hack: poop while reading.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 12- 3-15 12:08 AM
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Cryptic Ned @8 is exactly right. Plus we need a bigger audience so the last couple will be published in English.

Sifu @71 and Ogged @75: My review of Europe in Autumn is at http://www.thefrumiousconsortium.net/2015/06/04/europe-in-autumn-by-dave-hutchinson/


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 12- 3-15 3:07 AM
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139: What about Shirley Jackson's Life Among the Savages and Raising Demons, in which the bad things that happen *are* the children, but hilariously so?

I also think Ogged might like Connie Willis. Smart women protagonists in Doomsday Book, Bellwether and Passages, the first two of which are definitely good starting points. On the other hand, bad things happen to kids in Doomsday Book, at least the part that's set during the Black Death in England; then again, bad things happen to pretty much everybody at that time, so it's not like the kids are getting singled out because of creepy authorial choices. The book is more than worth it.


Posted by: Doug | Link to this comment | 12- 3-15 5:53 AM
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I assume ogged has read Robertson Davies, btw.


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12- 3-15 6:01 AM
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||
I really wasn't expecting the guy who shot a Muslim taxi driver here in an obvious hate crime to have a last name of "Mohamed."

It's interesting to read the "oh, he's such a nice guy" neighbor interview about a shooter who isn't white. ...progress?
|>


Posted by: dalriata | Link to this comment | 12- 3-15 7:37 AM
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234: bad assumption!


Posted by: nosflow | Link to this comment | 12- 3-15 8:45 AM
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Then he has a treat in store!


Posted by: chris y | Link to this comment | 12- 3-15 8:53 AM
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Huh, I don't have a strong opinion on whether he'd like them -- that is, I think he wouldn't but I'm not sure. They're talky and whimsical, rather than being what Ogged means by a page-turner.

Fun, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 12- 3-15 8:57 AM
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Reading on my phone, on trains in particular but also in general, has increased my reading dramatically.


Posted by: Mossy Character | Link to this comment | 12- 3-15 9:01 AM
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224: Why not both? Or all three? My phone is the most common item to have on my person, in addition to clothes. I don't read all that much around the house as I said, but my e-reader is normally stored in the living room, same as the TV. I could have a device in each hand during ad breaks if I wanted to...


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 12- 3-15 9:03 AM
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