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What books are you reading now?

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:welcome: NeverConvex

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As usual, I'm juggling several books:

Poems and Problems by Vladimir Nabokov

The 64-Square Looking Glass: The Great Game of Chess in World Literature by Burt Hochberg (ed.)

The Novel: An Alternative History, Beginnings to 1600 by Steven Moore

The Sagas of Icelanders by Various Authors

Jane and the Madness of Lord Byron by Stephanie Barron

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

These last two are intended as gifts, but I'm sneaking a look at them first.

The Sagas of Icelanders is a book "for" my upcoming World Lit I class, in that I'm using the existence of the class as an excuse to read it. I'm also planning on doing the same with A Mirror for Princes by Qabus ibn Wushmagir, Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Luo Guanzhong, and perhaps Tirant lo blanc by Joanot Martorell and Martí Joan de Galba. I've read Tirant before, but only as a library book, and I recently purchased my own hardcover copy for only $5.50, so I'm dying to read it again.

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Recently readings have included Karl Jaspers's work on Spinoza as well as Karl Jaspers and Rudolf Bultmann (but it is really mostly Jaspers) on Myth & Christianity: An Inquiry into the Possibility of Religion without Myth.

Current reading includes:

On Evil by Terry Eagleton

The Heart of Islam by Seyyed Hossein Nasr

The Fear of the Barbarians by Tzvetan Todorov

A Writer at War by Vassily Grossman, edited and translated by Antony Beevor and Luba Vinogradova

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Currently reading The Annotated Pride and Prejudice. The editor, Patricia Meyer Spacks, notes that she's been teaching this book for 40 years and thought she'd be able to make all the notations without a problem but found instead that she needed to do a lot of research. She found much interesting information to add and also puts some of her own ideas in some of the notes. But I've been playing hooky too long. After the first of the year, I'm going back to Greece.

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Posted (edited)

Here are the books I got for Christmas. I've read the first two:

The Last Stand – Nathaniel Philbrick

Philbrick is certainly a good writer, and he thinks Custer was an excellent soldier (unlike some other historians). In fact, he thinks Custer’s leadership was essential to the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg. The book reconstructs the Battle of Little Bighorn from both the U.S. and Native perspective. Reno (Custer’s second in command) and Terry (the commanding officer who ordered the mission) come off as the villains of the piece, although Benteen’s personal animosity toward Custer may also have contributed to the massacre.

Soccernomics – Simon Kuper and Stefan Symanski

This book attempts to analyze international soccer like “Money Ball” analyzed baseball – through application of Economic theory. It’s interesting – some of the points it makes are obvious but too often ignored. For example, building new stadia with public funds (as is often practiced in the U.S. for other sports) is always supported by “economic impact statements” which these authors think are not only wildly overstated, but deceptively so. Apparently, they have been utterly debunked by a leading economist. Same with hosting World Cups. However, although hosting a world cup is terrible economics in terms of money, it is good at increasing local happiness – as measured, for example, by dramatic drops in suicide rates. Good soccer tactics: buy players between 20-22 and sell them between 28-30. Buying younger players is too risky (it’s impossible to tell how good they are), and buying older players is too expensive. However, the authors recognize that some teams have to buy established superstars not because it is an economically effective tactic, but to placate their fan base.

I haven’t read these yet:

Apollo’s Angels – A History of Ballet by Jennifer Homans

I’m a big ballet fan, and this history goes from 1500 through the present. I sneaked a look at the end. Homans thinks ballet is dying.

Showtime: A History of Broadway Theater by Larry Stempel

Claude Levi-Strauss – A poet in the laboratory by Patrick Wilcken

This is the first English biography of the great thinker.

“Lives Like Loaded Guns” -- Lyndall Gordon

This book is about the squabbles of Emily Dickinson’s family about the rights to her poetry (I think).

Two Books on Museum of Natural History in New York (I forget the titles, but both are fancy picture books).

Edited by BDS

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I very much forgot that I received a nice present for Christmas from an known informant, we will call him/her HH.

The One from the Other: A Bernie Gunther Novel by Philip Kerr

I very much enjoyed the style of writing, and it was a classic gumshoe novel. I surprised myself by actually figuring it out about 2/3's of the way through. The only thing I could imagine is that I either read something similar or saw something in a movie (I doubt I am that good at figuring out mysteries normally, as I don't think I ever figured out a Sherlock Holmes novel).

It is very fun to read about Germany and the locations and then actually look them up and see how exact the author was at portraying the area. Like a trip through time and culture, even if some of the references seemed out of place, but heck, I don't know Germany all that much ;)

The ending seemed a bit forced, almost like he wanted it finished, and I didn't find the conclusion as realistic as I would have liked, it seemed to stray quickly to an end.

Still, an enjoyable read, should find the first three books I suppose.

-Scott

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Claude Levi-Strauss – A poet in the laboratory by Patrick Wilcken

This is the first English biography of the great thinker.

Coincidence: I'm having a friend ship her copy.

Finished Hyperion by Dan Simmons and Rorty's Contingency. Moved on to their sequels (Fall of Hyperion and Heidegger & Other Essays).

I much preferred Contingency over Rorty's infamous magnum opus, Philosophy & Mirror of Nature, since it was much less rambling and more focused, though it went far beyond the comfortable zone of philosophical argumentation.

Hyperion indeed belongs on the list of the very greatest sci fi ever, a fantastic space opera that bends genre easily as a contemporary graphic novel. It reminds me of Chantebury Tales, how Simmons frames the story with 7 pilgrims on their way to meet an invincible and remorseless entity.

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"The Value of Nothing" By Raj Patel

My favorite line so far: "The profits are privatized, and the risks are socialized."

Corporations have officially taken over. <_<

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Posted (edited)

I've undertaken a reading challenge, and I've picked the following books out for myself.

The entries struck out have already been read, and the titles in bold are my current reading. The numbers at right are the points awarded for each category, and the number of each category in the points grouping, so The Untouchable is the second category in the group of five-point challenges.

5.1 - Pike by Benjamin Whitmer

5.2 - The Untouchable by John Banville

5.3 - Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

5.4 - Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression by Nell Casey (ed.)

5.5 - The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton

5.6 - The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault

5.7 - My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Writings of Jane Bowles

5.8 - The War of the Roses by Warren Adler

10.1 - Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

10.2 - Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

10.3 - Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville

10.4 - The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

10.5 - Where Do We Come From? The Molecular Evidence for Human Descent by Jan Klein and Naoyuki Takahata

10.6 - Dreams of the Centaur by Montserrat Fontes

10.7 - Bakunin by Mark Leier

10.8 - Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement by Frank Fernández

15.1 - Mao II by Don DeLillo

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

15.2 - The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

15.3 - The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell

15.4 - Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul by Edward Humes

15.5 - Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth by Naguib Mahfouz

15.6 - Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy by Seth Kalichman

15.7 - Hunger by Knut Hamsun

15.8 - The Green Corn Rebellion by William Cunningham

20.1 - Persuasion by Jane Austen

20.2 - Whatever by Michel Houellebecq

25.1 - Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building by Richard Drinnon

A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indes by Bartolomé de las Casas

25.2 - Mystery at Devil's Paw by Franklin Dixon

A Faraway Island by Annika Thor

25.3 - My Life by Benvenuto Cellini

Bingo: Scenes of Money and Death by Edward Bond

25.4 - The Book of Margery Kempe

Cows Are Freaky When They Look At You: An Oral History of the Kaw Valley Hemp Pickers by David Ohle, Roger Martin, and Susan Brosseau (eds.)

25.5 - The Sagas of Icelanders

25.6 - To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

25.7 - Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See by Mike Davis, Kelly Mayhew, and Jim Miller

25.8 - Down the River by Edward Abbey

The Immortal Game: A History of Chess by David Shenk

Edited by Nullifidian

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God, that list makes me :faint:

You should have two more books by now (Swag 1) with Swag 2 on the way shortly. :yup:

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I've undertaken a reading challenge, and I've picked the following books out for myself.

The entries struck out have already been read, and the titles in bold are my current reading. The numbers at right are the points awarded for each category, and the number of each category in the points grouping, so The Untouchable is the second category in the group of five-point challenges.

5.1 - Pike by Benjamin Whitmer

5.2 - The Untouchable by John Banville

5.3 - Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor

5.4 - Unholy Ghost: Writers on Depression by Nell Casey (ed.)

5.5 - The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton by Edith Wharton

5.6 - The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault

5.7 - My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Writings of Jane Bowles

5.8 - The War of the Roses by Warren Adler

10.1 - Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

10.2 - Babbitt by Sinclair Lewis

10.3 - Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville

10.4 - The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse

10.5 - Why Didn't They Ask Evans? by Agatha Christie

10.6 - Dreams of the Centaur by Montserrat Fontes

10.7 - Bakunin by Mark Leier

10.8 - Cuban Anarchism: The History of a Movement by Frank Fernández

15.1 - Mao II by Don DeLillo

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

15.2 - The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré

15.3 - The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell

15.4 - Monkey Girl: Evolution, Education, Religion, and the Battle for America's Soul by Edward Humes

15.5 - Akhenaten, Dweller in Truth by Naguib Mahfouz

15.6 - Denying AIDS: Conspiracy Theories, Pseudoscience, and Human Tragedy by Seth Kalichman

15.7 - Hunger by Knut Hamsun

15.8 - The Green Corn Rebellion by William Cunningham

20.1 - Persuasion by Jane Austen

20.2 - Whatever by Michel Houellebecq

25.1 - Facing West: The Metaphysics of Indian-Hating and Empire-Building by Richard Drinnon

A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indes by Bartolomé de las Casas

25.2 - Mystery at Devil's Paw by Franklin Dixon

A Faraway Island by Annika Thor

25.3 - My Life by Benvenuto Cellini

Bingo: Scenes of Money and Death by Edward Bond

25.4 - The Book of Margery Kempe

Cows Are Freaky When They Look At You: An Oral History of the Kaw Valley Hemp Pickers by David Ohle, Roger Martin, and Susan Brosseau (eds.)

25.5 - The Sagas of Icelanders

25.6 - To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner

25.7 - Under the Perfect Sun: The San Diego Tourists Never See by Mike Davis, Kelly Mayhew, and Jim Miller

25.8 - Down the River by Edward Abbey

The Immortal Game: A History of Chess by David Shenk

I used to read like this. Not anymore, I am spending more time writing books these days.

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Posted (edited)

P.S.

If anyone wants to know what the categories are that can generate such a random list of books, here it is:

Fall '10/Winter '11 Task List

Still, despite the randomness of it, most of these books are either ones that I've wanted to read for a long time or have owned for a long time and not yet gotten around to.

The only category I can say I was completely disinterested in was the "Teen Reads Week" category. I picked a Hardy Boys mystery (Mystery at Devil's Paw) published when my father was 15 or 16 and I picked A Faraway Island by going to Overdrive.com, the service that supplies my library with digital audiobooks and e-books, and listing their "young adult" books by date of publication until I came across one that looked fairly interesting.

Edited by Nullifidian

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That's a great idea, making a winter reading list. I'm not quite as ambitious but here's my list, to be finished by March 19:

Lords of the Sea, John R. Hale (two-thirds through)

Language, Truth and Logic, Alfred Jules Ayer

Tales of the Greek Heroes, Roger Lancelyn Green

Antigone, Sophocles

Homer and the Heroic Tradition, Cedric Whitman

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, David Sedaris :D

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I also picked up, "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" My link This is apparently the first full translation, and it comes with a forward by HH the Dali Lama. There are only 25k in print for first edition, and I got one. Also,I collect books, so this makes it more special for me. :]

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I started reading A.J. Ayer's Language, Truth and Logic this weekend. I've been making some notes and will write at least one blog post on it, maybe more. This book was on a short annotated list The Heretic gave me a few years ago when I asked for help as a beginning reader of philosophy. I'm still a beginner and grateful for the list. :)

Here's his entry for Ayer: A. J. Ayer (Language, Truth and Logic)was a sharp fella who helped promote logical positivism in the early 20th century. He is a clear writer, and it is best to begin with those types of thinkers at the shallow end of the pool.

Edited by AllBlue
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Posted (edited)

I look forward to your blog, Allblue. :)

Finished Fall of Hyperion (a great conclusion to the opening story in Hyperion) and still stuck in the 1st chapter of of Heidegger & other essays. Also finished The Accidental Billionaire by Ben Mezrich, an easy read on the birth of Facebook (though the film adaptation did a much better job retelling the high stakes).

Now I'm enjoying Levi-Strauss: poet in the laboratory. Well written and comprehensive, and thankfully there's little psychologizing (a common fault among bad biographers clearly out of their depths when reconciling the theoretician with their theories) and the narrative quickly moves to the meat: the expeditions into the amazon forests, the ethnographic discoveries that led to structuralism. :mrgreen:

Edited by The Heretic

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I finished “Lives Like Loaded Guns”, a new biography of Emily Dickinson by Lyndall Gordon. Gordon proposes that Dickinson’s reclusive lifestyle may have resulted from her epilepsy, which Gordon thinks she had as a result of some poems, letters, and some prescriptions for (ineffective) drugs that were filled for her. Epilepsy, with its loss of control, was shameful in the 19th century, especially for women.

Gordon weighs in on the “Master” letters and poems, erotic and masochistic fantasies. There was no actual “master” in Dickinson’s life – Gordon dismisses each possible candidate. There are no definitive answers about Dickinson’s love life – she had a deep emotional and intellectual attachment to her sister-in-law, Susan Gilbert Dickinson, but the speculation that they were lovers is unconfirmed. Emily did have erotic attachments to several men, including, late in her life, Judge Otis Lord, to whom she wrote: “"I will not wash my arm; 'twill take your touch away."

Emily died in 1886. In 1882 her brother Austin (who lived next door) started an affair with Mabel Loomis Todd. Austin's wife Susan was one of Emily’s dearest friends (and possibly a lover). Todd’s husband was a free love advocate and an astronomer at Amherst. Mabel was a young beauty – some 25 years younger than Austin – and the affair continued until Austin’s death, five or more years after Emily’s.

Mabel was an energetic, intelligent woman, and edited and published a book of Emily’s poems in 1890. The book was an immediate success. Susan Gilbert Dickinson, who had in possession additional poems, tried with little success to duplicate the success of the original. Lavinia Dickinson, Emily’s sister with whom she shared a house, worked with Mabel at first, but then they feuded over property that Austin wanted Lavinia to give Mabel, which he could have left to her in his will but wanted to avoid the scandal. The family feud lasted for 70 years, with Mabel’s and Austin’s daughters taking up the fight into the mid twentieth century. The image of Emily Dickinson as a ghostly figure, dressed in white, came from Mabel Todd, who communicated with Emily through notes, but never talked to her face to face. This was true despite the fact that Mabel and Austin met 4 or 5 times a week in Lavinia and Emily’s house, presumably in lovers’ trysts.

The title of the book comes from this spectacular Dickinson poem:

My Life had stood - a Loaded Gun -

In Corners - till a Day

The Owner passed - identified -

And carried Me away –

And now We roam in Sovereign Woods -

And now We hunt the Doe -

And every time I speak for Him -

The Mountains straight reply –

And do I smile, such cordial light

Upon the Valley glow -

It is as a Vesuvian face

Had let its pleasure through -

And when at Night - Our good Day done -

I guard My Master's Head -

'Tis better than the Eider-Duck's

Deep Pillow - to have shared -

To foe of His - I'm deadly foe -

None stir the second time -

On whom I lay a Yellow Eye -

Or an emphatic Thumb -

Though I than He - may longer live

He longer must - than I -

For I have but the power to kill,

Without--the power to die--

p.s. I've also been reading in the Levi-Strauss biography, skipping around a bit, but I haven't gotten very far yet.

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Posted (edited)

I finished my first reading of Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life, Louise M. Antony, Ed. There were several essays I'd like to go back to reread so I renewed it for another few weeks.

I'm also starting Jeremy Rifkin's The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis.

A.J. Ayer is on hold. Of the list I made above, I finished:

Lords of the Sea, John R. Hale

Antigone, Sophocles

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, David Sedaris

I'll try to write some reviews in my blog at some point.

Edited by AllBlue

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I just finished reading a book titled, The Quants: How a New Breed of Math Whizzes Conquered Wall Street and Nearly Destroyed It :thumright:

The author, WSJ Staff Reporter Scott Patterson, does an excellent job of going back to the source of CDOs, Credit Default swaps, CWOs, subprime mortgages, super fast arbitages, etc. It also explains there has been a brain drain from math and physics programs across the country as these students graduating with PhDs in Physics or Math are not taking jobs as professors or researchers, but are migrating to Wall Street. All in all, this is a great book to read to begin to understand the complex world of the new Wall Street and how the Black-Scholes formula and model-reliant quantitative financiers contributed to the economic free fall in August 07 and September 09.

On to Nabokov's "final" work, The Original of Laura.

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I recently finished The Fortune of War by Patrick O'Brian, and I have The Surgeon's Mate up next in audiobook form, but I'm taking some time out to listen to an audiobook of Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 by Elizabeth Varon. I'll probably be starting Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon soon, since that's the LibriVox book-of-the-month for June.

In an e-text form, I've been reading Dmitri Merezhkovsky's novel about Julian the Apostate called The Death of the Gods and Frank Harris' proletarian novel about the Haymarket Affair, The Bomb.

And in plain codex form, I've been reading Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas Blackmon.

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I'm not reading much at the moment, mainly working on the Twilight series. I'll try and post about other books as I go.

:aeris:

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I just finished No Country For Old Men & am in the final third of Schiff's Cleopatra while slowly getting through Being & Time.

Since school started last week I'll have to give up sleep to keep reading. :mrgreen:

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I've been reading a lot recently related to the "College Students" group reading challenge.

Finished:

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James on LibriVox, a double volume containing the stories in the titular anthology as well as More Ghost Stories. These are masterpieces of atmospheric horror, and scary even to my modern sensibilities.

1968: The Year that Rocked the World by Mark Kurlansky, an enjoyable pop history with enough depth in it to still interest someone like me, who is already familiar with the Prague Spring, the Mexico City massacre, the founding of Weatherman/Weather Underground, SNCC, SDS, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., etc.

The Bomb by Frank Harris, a working class novel centered around the Haymarket Affair. Louis Lingg is a little too obviously a stand-in for Harris, which makes it incoherent when Harris tries to put his rather conventional socialism into Lingg's mouth and calls it "anarchism", and there's no evidence Rudolf Schnaubelt actually threw the bomb, but otherwise it stands up fairly well.

The Ionian Mission and Treason's Harbour, the eighth and ninth books in the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. The former was a little unfocused, but the latter was much more satisfying.

Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo by Murat Kurnaz, which was infuriating and depressing and entirely too plausible. The Nazi comparisons came unbidden to my mind, like when Kurnaz estimates his caloric intake while imprisoned at Guantanamo as being less than 600 calories a day. I immediately thought that this was almost exactly the caloric intake of inmates at Buchenwald. Also when he records doctors coming in merely to check on how much more torture he could endure without dying, I couldn't help but think of the "Doctors' Trial" at Nuremberg. Despite the horrors contained within, or perhaps because of them, I found it difficult to put down. I felt as if it would be trivializing the testimony I was reading to treat it like just another book.

Now I'm reading Drift: Stories from Newport Beach by Victoria Patterson, a short story anthology focusing on the low-paid and struggling service-sector workers of a ritzy city in Orange County.

Plus I'm listening to an audiobook of The Aeneid by Virgil, translated by John Dryden. Gorgeous verse. This is a prelude to reading Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin for the "Classics Revisited" category, consisting of one classic book and its modern adaptation. I like the irony of Le Guin taking a minor character from The Aeneid and making her the central figure, as that's exactly what Virgil did with Homer.

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I just finished reading Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria a couple days ago, and now I’m reading Lord Dunsany’s A Dreamer’s Tales. So far, it’s strange, and beautiful, and utterly absorbing, and I’m probably going to go right back to reading it after I post this.

Additionally, I’m reading Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle-- I left off a few weeks ago since I can only take so much of Freud at a time and had just been reading some of his other books, but I‘m ready to go back to it now.

And, of course, Being and Time, slowly but surely.

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I recently finished all ten books in Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series. Although I found the writing a little weak in places, the world and the characters Erikson created were beyond epic: the story drops the reader into a history already thousands of years old and the scenes in which gods are humbled by humans were beautiful to read. I don't think I've ever found a plot with so much detail and scope. However, for me Erikson's most interesting creation was the ordinary soldiers in the Malazan armies, particularly their being structured such that challenging and debating orders is a requirement. There were some very astute observations on leadership and compassion, too.

I tend to avoid fantasy series but I strongly recommend these books.

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