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What books are you reading now?

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Posted

First of all, thanks Pgalaxy for the inspiration for this thread! The forums are looking a little dead right now, maybe conversation will pick up here.

This is as simple as it sounds.. I want to know what you're currently reading, and any thoughts or opinions you'd like to share about it.

Right now, I'm reading two different books.

Blind Ambition, by John Dean. This book centers (so far) around the Nixon administration and the Watergate scandal that brought it down. John Dean was White House Counsel to the President and writes his book from his own perspective from within the administration about the events. He doesn't take a lot of time explaining who all the various people are, so if you don't have a previous basic knowledge of Watergate it would be smart to brush up on it before you begin reading.

50 Philosophy Ideas (You Really Need To Know) by Ben Dupre. This book takes you through quick 2-3 page summaries of various ideas in philosophy, from Occam's Razor to paradigm shifts to virtue ethics. This book is a good start for those (like myself) who are just becoming aware of the interest and value of philosophy. I picked this up at a Walden Books store near my house in the bargain bin for $5. Definitely a well spent $5!

Spitfire

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Posted

I am currently reading The Amber Spyglass, the third in Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I have commented on this in another thread and will have a bit more to say after I have finished reading it. I have also just started rereading Erewhon by Samuel Butler. It is a satire on English society, ala Gulliver's Travels. I last read it something like 30 years ago so it is a bit like reading it for the first time. Just finished the first chapter, so I haven't much to say about it at the moment.

I just recently finished reading Bare Faced Messiah, an unauthorized biography of L. Ron Hubbard (the founder of Scientology). That was some scary reading. The guy's life was even more bizarre than his science fiction writing.

Angakuk

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Posted

Nice idea, Spitfire (hope the pound thing helped a little. I don't like reading fast and I'm not consistent. I prefer to dip in here and there and see where the mood or thought takes me next. Apart from flutters in a poem each day, or a short extract from my 'extract' type books I am:

general note taking from semiotic sources that I can find on the net. My orbit is about the planets of Saussure or Peirce but sometimes I find myself swinging near the moons of Eco, Baudrillard and Barthes. Completely a novice with this brand new topic of investigation and would really like to find someone who can point and indicate me right.

In Spanish I've got myself Apocal

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Posted

There are times when the truth is unbearable

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Posted

Deep Survival: Who lives, who dies and why

A collection of stories about survival and the title says it all. Pretty interesting, it focuses on the psychological aspect of survival situations. Actually, survival seems to be 99% determined by the psychological state of the person.

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Posted

Just finished Francisco Ayala's Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion. This is Ayala's argument for the comfortable coexistence of evolution and religion. He seems reasonable and I learned a bit about DNA. First week in Feb., I read Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer. Darwin's 199th birthday was on Feb. 12. Been dipping in and out of Origin of Species too.

Just stopped reading Science 101 Geology in the middle. This is a Smithsonian publication and I think you can really tell the manuscript was gone over by folks in Bush's White House before publication. In a chapter on climate change the only things mentioned that we might do about it is not worry too much, plant some more trees, seed the oceans with iron and silica to get phytoplankton to grow, and figure out a way to get at the methane gas in the permafrost. Also, this statement was the most forceful (ha) on how we got into our current situation: "All life-forms play some role in influencing these reservoirs [main reservoirs in the global carbon cycle], and our species is no exception to this rule, although the true magnitude of our impact on climate remains to be seen." So, I'm now looking for another intro to geology.

Also "reading" 300 Astronomical Objects. The text is briefly informational, but the best part is the pictures of all the goodies in the universe. Makes me want to get a telescope!

Philosophically speaking, Danto's The Abuse of Beauty is on the table. I'm a true 20th century art lover so taking a look at the 60's, and other decades, through Danto's eyes is enjoyable.

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Posted

Have now finished De Botton, the punk book, still plugging on with Eco & semiotic studyings in general - structural approach to 'texts'. Read Barthes notion of the sign al la Saussure.

Other than that, the toilet read this week is the Collected Maxims of La Rouchefoucauld. I'm also dipping into a book called La Existencia Del Mundo by Grossmann, which is a sweet introduction to the (historical) problems of ontology.

One of my student friends has also given me a novel called, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It's a typical midcult functional affair whereby the reader's brain is hoped to be sufficiently short circuited enough for one to get the impression that they are reading a work of 'literature'. The book offers the function of consolation, a bed-side read. It is a stimulus for acritical evasions, and in its generality of the 'human condition' merely reafirms its substantial falsity. It is one of those books that hit best seller lists, win prizes and has the commercial function of hoping to make the 'educated' midcult believe they have actually participated in a work of 'art.'

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Posted

I'm taking another stab at Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. I just get tired of having to look up his definitions all the time, but then I guess that's the standard for reading philosophical works. It's just that with the CPR this seems to be especially true.

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I'm considering having another go at Anna Karenina by Tolstoy again. I stalled out about halfway through because of schoolwork, but it's still sitting there on my shelf challenging me.

I'm a big fan of Russian literature, so I feel like I should finish Anna Karenina if for no other reason than Tolstoy wrote it!

Spitfire

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Go for it, spitfire. It's a magnificent novel and I consider it a far more outstanding piece of literature than War & Peace, which some folk argue as the greatest novel ever written. It matters not, the novel that is Anna Karenina, will offer you as much, if not more, than you are willing to put into it.

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Posted

I'm taking another stab at Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. I just get tired of having to look up his definitions all the time, but then I guess that's the standard for reading philosophical works. It's just that with the CPR this seems to be especially true.

While reading Kritik, I recommend a two-tiered approach:

  • First - when reading the primary source, try and reassess the framework, i.e., Kants intentions and the tradition he is responding to, the argument, the contents themselves, and write down your initial interpretation. At this point, do not bother with formulating objections, for they are premature, little more than knee-jerk reactions.

  • Second - read the commentaries: Wilkerson's guide to the Critique, Strawson's Bound of Sense, and the best of them all: Allison's Transcendental Idealism. The first one tends towards the student, the second one is less of a commentary and more of a critique of the Critique, which means a misleading interpretation colored by linguistic philosophy. The last one is a fantastic reinterpretation (read: advocacy) of Kant that accounts for all the responses in the last 2 centuries, from the german idealists up to contemporary scholars and post-Kantians.

Then you are in a position to make informed objections. In other words, nobody is entitled to their opinions of a great philosopher until they've done their homework first.

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Posted

Well, I don't yet have those other books, just the CPR. Anyway, the point wasn't to establish opinions of Kant but to try to learn a few things. But, since there is no truth, why am I bothering, right? I don't know anymore.

That thing with Hume was a fluke.

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There may be no Truth with a capital T, but that doesn't mean all interpretations are false and useless. No Truth only frees litte truths to circulate and contest one another. You can develop your own interpretation of Kant, provided it is well-grounded in the primary source and accounts for the other interpretations.

The books I'm reading right now:

Jude the Obscure by Hardy

The World is Flat by Friedman

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Posted

I'm considering having another go at Anna Karenina by Tolstoy again. I stalled out about halfway through because of schoolwork, but it's still sitting there on my shelf challenging me.

I'm a big fan of Russian literature, so I feel like I should finish Anna Karenina if for no other reason than Tolstoy wrote it!

Spitfire

Great book, I finished it pretty fast...on a pace of an average of 40 pages/day which is good for me considering I too have schoolwork.

I guess I "agree" with qualia (wrong term). Anna Karenina hit home with me more so than W&P.

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Posted

Jose saramago's Death at intervals. The master has disappointed. The usual laconic style, has failed to carry through in this very whimsical attempt. Death stops occuring in Portugal, no one dies. The whole country is gripped with joy and then fear. but death comes back, and the rest of the narrative focuses on death itself, personified as a woman. Ah! the tragedy of great men with no more ideas...

Niven

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Posted

I'm reading God's War, Tyerman's "new" history of the Crusades.

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Q) What are you reading now?

A) The Canterbury Tales. I'm not a well-read person of fiction. I never came across this before:

http://www.librarius.com/cantales/yeomatl2.htm

895 Also ther was a disciple of Plato,

That on a tyme seyde his maister to,

As his book Senior wol bere witnesse,

And this was his demande in soothfastnesse:

"Telle me the name of the privee stoon?"

900 And Plato answerde unto hym anoon,

"Take the stoon that Titanos men name."

"Which is that?" quod he. "Magnasia is the same,"

Seyde Plato. "Ye, sire, and is it thus?

This is ignotum per ignocius.

905 What is Magnasia, good sire, I yow preye?"

"It is a water that is maad, I seye,

Of elementes foure," quod Plato.

"Telle me the roote, good sire," quod he tho,

"Of that water, if it be youre wil."

910 "Nay, nay," quod Plato, "certein, that I nyl.

The philosophres sworn were everychoon

That they sholden discovere it unto noon,

Ne in no book it write in no manere.

For unto Crist it is so lief and deere

915 That he wol nat that it discovered bee,

But where it liketh to his deitee

Men for t' enspire, and eek for to deffende

Whom that hym liketh; lo, this is the ende.

Thanne conclude I thus, sith that God of hevene

920 Ne wil nat that the philosophres nevene

How that a man shal come unto this stoon,

I rede, as for the beste, lete it goon.

For whoso maketh God his adversarie,

As for to werken any thyng in contrarie

925 Of his wil, certes, never shal he thryve,

Thogh that he multiplie terme of his lyve.

And there a poynt; for ended is my tale.

God sende every trewe man boote of his bale!

Indeed.

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Posted

Just finished Downers Grove by Hornsburg.

Currently reading that masterpiece of decadence, Huysman's A Rebours. Its a different flavor of decadence than Oscar Wilde's brand of aestheticism. :rock:

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Campa, The only the other piece by Huysman I have read is La bas. The crumbling facade of European manners is firmly depicted in this text. Europe had never seemed so dark to me than when I read it.

I have begun on Nikos Kazantzakis' Christ Crucified. Too early to say if I like it or not.

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Posted (edited)

Christ Crucified? Do you mean The Last Temptation of Christ ? I've read that, i think 8 years ago, and thought it was brilliant due to its humane portrayal of Jesus Christ. Come to think of it, this human version of Christ is the perfect antidote to the Augustinian version of Christ as Idealized human. I would recommend it to anyone, including those militant atheists! This is evidence how one can challenge certain aspects of Christian dogma while appealing to Christianity. :mrgreen:

Edited by Campanella

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Posted

No, The temptation of Christ and Chrsit Crucified are 2 different texts written by Kazantzakis

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I'm reading a book called Imprimatur by Monaldi and Sorti, which has just been released in an English translation after having apparently been effectively censored in Italy. The reason? Although historical fiction, its authors include appendices detailing their research and their claim that Pope Innocent XI financed the invasion of England by the Protestant William of Orange, bringing to an end Catholic influence in the country. A piece in The Independent, A Papal Mystery, explains how the book was initially snapped up but then quietly became unavailable. I'm enjoying it so far.

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I just finished The Mind of the Market: Compassionate Apes, Competitive Humans, and Other Tales from Evolutionary Economics by Michael Shermer, Wandering God by Morris Berman and Three Days To Never by Tim Powers.

Shermer's book is worth reading if you don't mind digressions into an authors personal history, condensed overviews of complex fields of socio-political study and some very tenuous justifications for contemporary market capitalism through its "naturalization" via evolutionary theory. There was some interesting information to be found in this book but nothing new will be acquired if you already read the work being produced in the fields Shermer covers (and i do). There is also some serious issues of contention i have with people who retroactively apply presently observed behavior unto our species as if there has been no contextual changes since the Paleolithic. You find this kind of behavior in Sociobiology/Evolutionary Psychology everywhere you turn. It's frustrating and unfounded, often amounting to nothing more then pure assertion.

Berman's book is dense and full of ideas worth revisiting save for the Freudian themes. His study of Hunter-Gatherer/Nomadic cultures, their philosophies, their worldviews, in comparison to sedentary, agricultural societies is stimulating. If you have any interest in this kind of inquiry then this book comes highly recommended.

I took both books from the library and, of the two, i want to purchase a copy of Berman's book to have on hand for reference use.

Right now i am reading Bruce Sterling's Distraction. I was given a paperback copy some time in the distant past and have only recently taken it off my shelve. I needed something to read and it was at hand.

As for non-fiction, i'm reading Nowtopia by Chris Carlsson. We just hosted a lecture with Chris at the collectively run bookstore i work at and the discussion that followed the talk was comprehensive and inspiring. Every one of the 30 or so odd people that attended ended up purchasing a copy of his book (including myself). I don't necessarily agree with his analysis of "class" or the futility of labor organization but many of the ideas presented thus far seem sound and obvious to me. It's been keeping my interest and attention and that's always a positive sign for any non-fiction book as far as i am concerned.

-theSaint

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Posted

Welcome to TGL, thefugitivesaint. May your stay be long and fruitful :-)

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