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Areala Asks: About Books (20160422)


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Moving on from superpowers to books. Tally ho!!

This week on "Areala Asks" the red-headed wonder of the convent has a multi-part question for you concerning books. You remember books, don't you? Those masterfully-constructed, processed tree corpses filled with things like 'words' and 'dangerous ideas' and such? I thought so. You are SO intelligent, loyal minions! :)

So, before you from this thread can flee

Answer, you must, these questions three:

1 - What is the best book you ever read, and what makes it so? (If you can't narrow it down to one, feel free to list two or three. You won't get extra credit, but you WILL appear extra smart to everyone else, and that's important!)

2 - What is the worst book you ever read, and what makes it so? (Again, if you can't narrow it down to the absolute worst, just toss out a couple you absolutely hated for some reason. My guess is most of these will fall into the 'had to read it for school' category, and that's totally understandable. Most of mine sure do. But even more amusing are the ones you just kept reading because 'it has to get better eventually, right...?')

3 - What is the one book you've always meant to read but have yet to get around to doing so, and why not? (We all have this one, right? I mean, you know you should read it, everyone else has talked about it, maybe you even saw the movie it was based on and just love the story, but for whatever reason, you just haven't picked it up yet. Talk about that here.)

The question shall remain open from now until 5pm EST on Friday, April 29th, when yet another brain-twisting question shall arise. I cannot WAIT to see what everyone says here. You can tell an awful lot about a person by what they like and dislike to read. :)

*huggles*
Areala

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My favorite book is "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" by Robert Heinlein. I've never read a more challenging narrative that invited me to consider how so many unusual things could be normal for a society given certain conditions, namely living on the moon in the future. In the book people who live on the moon develop strange customs and over time have a culture so different from the Earth that it becomes offensive to them. This occurs along with the development of the first AI on the moon, who first learns from lunar culture.

It's not an easy book and I actually stopped at one part because I did not get what was going on. I kept going over the same chapter and each time I would zone out and not understand it. It was months before I went back and decided that I would really slow down and think through that particular chapter, but I'm glad I did, because it paid off.

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My faves, in no particular order would be:

Fiction

  • Elfstones of Shannara ... THE book to get if you are into fantasy (don't get me started on the MTV abortion of that book on TV recently)
  • Rendezvous with Rama ... Arthur C. Clarke's take on human insignificance
  • Body Rides ... Richard Laymon. You tend to like him or hate him. I like this particular one of his....

Non-Fiction

  • The Golden Horseshoe ... bio by the king of submarine warfare Otto Kretschmer.
  • I Flew for the Fuhrer ... bio by a Luftwaffe ace and unique perspective of those harrowing times from the other side. Read the UK version though. The USA version was edited for political correctness
  • The Royal Tombs of Egypt ... if you want to see the art on the tombs of the pharaohs and considering several of the tombs are closed to the public for good in an effort to preserve them this is THE book to get
  • Death in the Long Grass .... Game hunting in Africa during the sixties and seventies, an age when hunting was a way of keeping numbers down and generating serious income for the country. Poaching subsequently ruined all of that in an incredibly short period of time.
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Oooooh! Kiwi likes Laymon? He's one of my favorite horror writers of all time. While I can't claim to love everything the man wrote, much of it is so gosh-darn enjoyable in a 'shut your brain off and just read' sort of way. :)

'Body Rides' is one that I enjoyed right up until the ending, which ends in such an obviously male wish-fulfillment fantasy that I was rolling my eyes. Other than that though, it's a killer story with a great premise and a pretty terrifying antagonist as well. Great choice, Kiwi!! :)

I've never cared for anything of Heinlein's that I've managed to struggle through. That may be sacrilege to say, considering the man's a giant in the science fiction field and published a ridiculously large body of literature, but...I dunno. Maybe I'm the wrong gender. Literally every fan of Heinlein I know is a guy...not saying female fans don't exist, but there does appear to be something that appeals strongly to the male psyche in his works. :)

*huggles*
Areala

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I hate to sound uneducated (well I guess I don't really care one way or the other, since I know that I don't sound unintelligent) but I actually haven't read much "great literature". I'm much more a fan of nonfiction and leave the fictitious stuff for the movies. It's simply a matter of patience: Namely, I have very little of it. Nonfiction tends to keep me gripped much more easily because it's all about presenting me with a topic that I'm interested in. Just sheer, direct knowledge. Fiction, on the other hand, takes its time to develop characters or set the scene and as much as I (legitimately) appreciate that, I tend to just want to get to the point.

So, forgive my choices for being relatively pedestrian but, again, it's not that I'm an uneducated cretin - it's that I simply don't often have the patience to dedicate hours to sitting down and immersing myself in a story. With that out of the way, on we go.

1: A SIMPLE PLAN. This book is one of those rare instances of a fictional story that truly gripped me. It's a story about three middle-aged friends in a snowy rural town in Ohio: A quiet, intelligent, hardworking family man, his slow and unpopular brother, and the brother's blue collar beer buddy. The men are driving down a country road together when a fox that darts across the road causes them to lose control and slam into a snowbank. After their dog jumps out of the truck to chase the fox into the nearby woods, the men begrudgingly leave the vehicle and start trudging through the snow to follow him. Once inside the forest, the men are startled to find a downed private airplane that had apparently crashed with no survivors. Inside the wreckage is a bag with over $4 million dollars in cash. After some debate about what to do, the men settle on a plan: The family man will hide the money in his house, and then they'll silently watch - and wait. If after several months the plane hasn't been found and the money hasn't been claimed, the three will split it evenly between them. No one mentions any of this to anybody. Just watch and wait.

What follows is a masterfully written story about consequence. The decision to keep the money sets into motion a chain of events that take the men down a spiral of ever-worsening complications. The tiniest, most innocuous choices begin to dig a hole that only grows deeper and deeper with each attempt to climb out. Every attempt to clear the skies ahead plunges the situation further into darkness. This is a story about the snowballing effect of evil; how easy it is for the best of intentions to turn into the most unnecessary of tragedies. It's riveting. Equally riveting (in fact a bit better, in my opinion) is the 1998 film of the same name. Adapted for the screen by the author, Scott Smith, the film has universally great performances from Bill Paxton, Bent Briscoe and an Oscar-nominated Billy Bob Thornton. It's also got subtle, tight, mesmerizing direction from Sam Raimi. Whether you read the book or watch the movie, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

FIRST BLOOD: Everyone knows Rambo, but not everyone knows that the first movie to introduce him - First Blood - was a more somber and suspenseful film about a troubled Vietnam vet, unlike the action superhero that the following movies made him out to be. I liked First Blood, so I decided that I'd check out the book to see if I enjoyed it as well. This is one of those situations where, despite seeing the movie first, I enthusiastically proclaim the book to be far better.

First Blood is the story of John Rambo, a man who's returned from the Vietnam war to a world that has no use for him. His fellow soldiers and best friends are all dead, and he has nowhere to go. He's just drifting, trying to find a place to have a hot meal and be left alone. But when he passes through a tight-knit forested Kentucky town and stops to grab something to eat, he raises the ire of the town's police chief. Arrested for vagrancy and panicking from flashbacks triggered by the jail and its officers, John assaults the officers and escapes into the mountainous wilderness surrounding the town. This begins a cat and mouse game of escalating determination as the police chief, himself a veteran of the Korean war, matches wits with John by launching a manhunt that won't end until one of them is dead.

The book is amazing. Taut, gripping, suspenseful, all the good stuff. It uses an ingenious alternating viewpoint structure that gives both the protagonist and antagonist equal room to develop. One chapter will be told exclusively from Rambo's point of view, the next will be told exclusively from chief Teasle's point of view, and back and forth and back and forth until the story reaches its conclusion. Through this method you (and the two men) realize that they're more alike than they initially assumed, and as the story progresses they come to both hate and respect each other with equal measure. Unlike the film there are moments throughout the book where Teasle is humanized as a person worthy of our sympathy, whose desperate need to stop Rambo at all costs is completely founded, while also a person whose personal quest for revenge might be getting out of control. Rambo, meanwhile, is a man capable of heroic deeds but also a man whose dangerous mental illness and merciless military training makes him a more than capable killer. As the two repeatedly cycle between closing the distance and losing each other in the lush mountain wilderness we're allowed to hear all of their thoughts and choose for ourselves who the good guy really is. It's awesome, awesome stuff.

TREASURE ISLAND. There's not much to say about this one, other than how fun it is. Pretty much every exciting and / or amusing pirate stereotype came from this one, and it's easy to see why. The setting and atmosphere are absolutely rich and one easily gets sucked into its world while reading it. I hate to use cliche words like "timeless" and "classic" but that's pretty much what this is. It's just a fun, fun adventure yarn with compelling characters, an interesting plot, and a great sense of setting. Track down the 1994 film starring Charlton Heston and an outstanding young Christian Bale, if you can.

2. I've been fortunate not to have read many books that I really didn't like (again, much of this has to do with the fact that I prefer nonfiction). So hmm, worst book. Idunno. That's a tough one. Actually, probably Johnny Tremain. Y'know, because every school kid loves reading about an apprenticing blacksmith in the days of the Boston Tea Party, right? Good god, what a boring fucking book. You nailed it, we had to read this drying paint for class in like 5th grade. I have to defer to Bart Simpson when I admit that the part where Johnny the idiot melts his damn hand off in a smithing accident is, without question, the only interesting part of the book (and the only one that I can possibly remember).

3. I'd love to have the patience to sit down and read Lord of the Rings. I'm well-acquainted with the story from constant childhood exposure to the cartoons, adult exposure to the movies, and my own Cliff's Notes studies on Wikipedia and the appendices. But I've never actually sat down and read the books cover to cover myself. Again, it's that patience thing. I got as far as downloading the audiobooks so that's something, right? ..RIGHT?

Oh, and A Romance of Three Kingdoms. Great story, but tough to read a 1,400 page novel when there's so much political intrigue between people with almost interchangeably similar names. Whether that's racist is for the courts to decide. Whether it's true is undeniable fact.

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Oooooh! Kiwi likes Laymon? He's one of my favorite horror writers of all time. While I can't claim to love everything the man wrote, much of it is so gosh-darn enjoyable in a 'shut your brain off and just read' sort of way. :)

'Body Rides' is one that I enjoyed right up until the ending, which ends in such an obviously male wish-fulfillment fantasy that I was rolling my eyes. Other than that though, it's a killer story with a great premise and a pretty terrifying antagonist as well. Great choice, Kiwi!! :)

I've never cared for anything of Heinlein's that I've managed to struggle through. That may be sacrilege to say, considering the man's a giant in the science fiction field and published a ridiculously large body of literature, but...I dunno. Maybe I'm the wrong gender. Literally every fan of Heinlein I know is a guy...not saying female fans don't exist, but there does appear to be something that appeals strongly to the male psyche in his works. :)

*huggles*

Areala

Heinlein didn't do much for me either when it comes to Sci-Fi. I prefer Clarke, Greg Bear and Larry Niven in that genre.

I didn't particularly like Laymon's Beast House series. As far as horror goes I much prefer Graham Masterton as an author. The Sphinx was a standout title for me, not because she had six breasts mind you, although that was rather erotic I have to admit, but because he really does weave interesting tales based upon mythical societies etc which leaves you wondering whether there's even a grain of truth to them.

On a side note to this interesting topic, another question if you will? More like a sub-question really ..... do you read novels on an e-reader (Kindle), tablet (iPad, Surface, Galaxy) or do you prefer reading them the old fashioned way?

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Heinlein wrote some rather challenging books. I read through Stranger in high school, and found myself surprisingly agreeable to something I was forced to read over the summer.

Best book? Sadly, I've read through dozens of them. Possibly even many dozens. I used to read a LOT up until... probably the early 2000's. High school really took its toll on my ability to care about much. That said... I might be able to give you the gist of a few of the books I've read over the years, but my memory is terrible anymore. My memory is kinda like a bowl, but for ideas. Only so much info fits there.

Worst book? I would probably have to say either The Hobbit, or uh... I wanna say it was something by either Asimov or Clarke, was written in the early 1900's, a sci-fi, dealt with clones, I want to say. One of those 'required' reading books that just couldn't keep my interest to save itself. The Hobbit... I've tried reading it on at least 4 or 5 separate occasions. Always got to about page 61 or so, and could NOT make it any further. Funny part is, that was around the part with the trolls. I love the scene, but it is sooooo wordy that it is kinda hard to read.

Books to read on my list?

-Jupiter Symphony, by AC Harrison

-The Making of America, by Cleon Skousen

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Oh, and A Romance of Three Kingdoms. Great story, but tough to read a 1,400 page novel when there's so much political intrigue between people with almost interchangeably similar names. Whether that's racist is for the courts to decide. Whether it's true is undeniable fact.

As someone with a fascination with Japanese history of the last millennium, (particularly the Sengoku period), I can say with confidence that you're not alone in getting lost in the name thing. Between the clan names, the honorifics, the given name, the chosen name, the pseudonym, so on and so forth... it's quite hard to follow. It wasn't uncommon for one person to have literally three, four, sometimes even more, names throughout their lifetime.

On a side note to this interesting topic, another question if you will? More like a sub-question really ..... do you read novels on an e-reader (Kindle), tablet (iPad, Surface, Galaxy) or do you prefer reading them the old fashioned way?

If at all possible, paper for me, please. Drop a book in the tub, and it's just wrinkly. Drop a tablet in the tub, and well...

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English lit major here, so I've read my fair share of "literature," but while deep and complex books are great for writing papers about, when it comes to reading for pleasure, my tastes are much more pedestrian. For example, the book I enjoyed most in my undergrad years was one of the least fertile in regards to generating great original paper theses - Dracula. I'd read it as a kid and sort of hated it...way too dry and not enough vampire action for my 10-year-old tastes. But when I had to read it again for a gothic fiction class, I fell in love with it. It's an epistolary novel which I suppose could come off as a gimmick if over-abused, but I've personally read so few novels written in that style that it seemed fresh and I was fascinated by it. Vampire fiction as a genre has become one of the most vile fetid slums for terrible prose that I can imagine, but the progenitor of the genre is free from all that baggage and definitely gets my recommendation for anyone wanting to read a "classic" that's a little more awesome than most.

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As someone with a fascination with Japanese history of the last millennium, (particularly the Sengoku period), I can say with confidence that you're not alone in getting lost in the name thing. Between the clan names, the honorifics, the given name, the chosen name, the pseudonym, so on and so forth... it's quite hard to follow. It wasn't uncommon for one person to have literally three, four, sometimes even more, names throughout their lifetime.

Exactly! It's not enough that so many names start to sound similar to a non-native speaker, but they've got a bunch of political and courtesy titles too! It's like "wait, so Xiahou Dun and Xiahou Yuan fought with Xuande, who is actually Liu Bei? But then where does that leave Boyan, who is actually Lu Xun, and Xu Rong of Xuantu Commandery?"

I swear to god I'm not making any of this shit up!

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I've never cared for anything of Heinlein's that I've managed to struggle through. That may be sacrilege to say, considering the man's a giant in the science fiction field and published a ridiculously large body of literature, but...I dunno. Maybe I'm the wrong gender. Literally every fan of Heinlein I know is a guy...not saying female fans don't exist, but there does appear to be something that appeals strongly to the male psyche in his works. :)

I haven't met any other fans of Heinlein (people I run into seem more interested in Orson Scott Card) but I suppose you're right. From what I've read there is very little if any attention to the complexities of personal relationships for their own sake, which I've heard appeals to women. Whenever Heinlein writes about relationships it's attached to something more abstract. Like in "Mistress" there are plural marriages and an AI and in "Stranger" there's an alien teaching humanity about his culture and in "Starship Troopers" there are simple friendships and camaraderie that survive in a radically different political environment. Maybe men are more likely to cooly think through relationships like logical puzzles in order to solve them and find harmony, and women are more likely to resist that approach and rely on instinct. Just a guess. I don't really know. It's not Fifty Shades, that's for sure.

By the way those three books are what Heinlein himself recommended people read. He said that if people only read those three out of all of what he wrote, then they've read most of what he tried to get across. I personally don't care for "Stranger in a Strange Land" but "Starship Troopers" is the most hardcore book I've ever read and I've already said what I like about "Mistress." :)

The worst book I've ever read was probably "As Time Goes By," the official sequel to the film "Casablanca." Ugh, what was I thinking? I was young. People make mistakes!

My favorite author as a kid was Louis Sachar. I read every book he wrote for years. They were very silly and modestly intriguing, but I felt I outgrew them, which is a shame because it was only when I became an adult that Sachar made it big with "Holes." I know almost nothing about that book at all or the movie. People say I should read it and I think, yeah, wow, Louis Sachar, of course! But I just haven't for some reason. I don't know. What kind of an author names their book "Holes?" But if anyone would write a book full of plot holes and advertise it that way it would be Louis Sachar. :lol:

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I've lived in Japan for over 8 years and names are still the most difficult things for me to remember to the point where I've almost stopped even trying. If someone has a name that is also a word that means something, I can remember it pretty easily. Ah, her name is Shizuka...just like the word for "quiet" (regardless of whether it uses the same kanji) - I can remember that! But when a name is just a name it's way too easy for all of the Masakis, Misakis, Masatos, Misatos, Kentas and Kentos etc. to become jumbled in my mind. It also doesn't help that I interact with about 1500 people on a weekly basis lol.

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i'm not really sure how to answer this question (you know what? i'm starting to feel like this is a habit and that i tend to get off on my own tangent. i'm oddly OK with this.)

i don't read many "books" or "novels" or what have you. instead, i'm just going to tell you all ("y'all" if i was a bit more cowboy) what i have enjoyed and what i haven't:

-as a youngster, my favorite books were "Maniac Magee" by Jerry Spinelli and "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen. i haven't revisited either in YEARS AND YEARS.

-in high school, i was challenged to read "Tarzan of the Apes" (the first Tarzan novel) by Edgar Rice Burroughs. i thoroughly enjoyed it, and it thusly made me hate the Disney animated film and any later incarnations of said character.

-like i said, i don't read many novels. an exception i made was "Dracula" by Bram Stoker (shout out to kitsunebi!) i knew nothing of this book going in, and was surprised by the fact that it was written diary-style. it actually provided a new experience for me, and i REALLY enjoyed it. there were some parts that i was bored during, and would put off reading because i wasn't interested, but there were plenty more parts that i couldn't but the book down and HAD to see what was going to happen. Highly recommended.

-i started reading a comprehensive anthology of all of the "Sherlock Holmes" stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. honestly, i'm only a handful of stories in (and we're talking well over a year, real-time), but they've all been quite enjoyable. i believe the collection i have is put into chronological written order, although i'm not 100% sure on that. i'd also suggest reading these, especially if detective work is your thing, although you honestly won't be able to decypher the clues given as that's not really the point. A fun read nonetheless.

-my wife is a HUGE Harry Potter fan. i've never read any of the books, nor seen any of the movies. She regularly recommends them, but i'm holding strong against them. Not because i think they won't be good, but mainly to annoy her. It's totally working.

mainly i'm a big comic book fan. i did a full read-through of Batman (from 1939-2011) a couple years ago and just began a 'full' X-Men run (1966-2001). i'm currently outlining a post about comics, due on Free Comic Book Day (first Saturday of May). stay tuned.

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I hate to sound uneducated (well I guess I don't really care one way or the other, since I know that I don't sound unintelligent) but I actually haven't read much "great literature".

You hick!! ;)

1: A SIMPLE PLAN.

This was the first thing of Scott Smith's I read, and I agree: it's so ridiculously good. Even if you don't fancy yourself as one who enjoys 'those kind' of books, "A Simple Plan" is a textbook example of how one relatively innocuous and seemingly-harmless decision can lead to a lifetime of misery and regrets. Excellent choice!

First Blood is the story of John Rambo, a man who's returned from the Vietnam war to a world that has no use for him.

Another great choice, although I will correct one thing: the film First Blood is the story of John Rambo. The book is the story of 'Rambo, no other name given. Could be his first, could be his last, could be an alias or nickname for all we know. All David Morrell tells us in the opening is that "His name was Rambo", and that's all we need. I was all of five years old when the movie came out, so I didn't see it until I was much older, and I didn't read the book until after seeing the movie. The version I read was a 30th anniversary edition, with a new introduction by the author, and since nothing told me I should do otherwise, I started with that. Nobody bothered to warn me that Morrell was writing that intro for people who were already familiar with both the film and the book, so when he spoiled the ending (which nobody who had seen the movie would have seen coming unless they watched the deleted/alternate scenes) less than five pages in, I was livid. :)

That said, Morrell also wrote the novelization of Rambo: First Blood, Part II which, given the ending of the novel, kind of wedged him into position from which it was impossible to extricate himself. He resolves this by writing a two-sentence intro, the gist of which is, "The book 'First Blood' ends one way. The film version doesn't end like that. Deal with it." :)

Heinlein didn't do much for me either when it comes to Sci-Fi. I prefer Clarke, Greg Bear and Larry Niven in that genre.

I read Greg Bear's "Psychlone" as a teenager, and the very idea of what he suggested horrified me so much I've never read anything else of his. Not because I didn't want to, but because the discovery of what the Psychlone actually was provoked such a visceral emotional response that I can't risk tainting that memory with anything else. I didn't even pick up "Rogue Planet", his Star Wars novel set after the events of The Phantom Menace. Twenty years later, I read it again and got the same gut-punch reaction. If I'm still alive in another twelve years, I'll probably read it again.

I didn't particularly like Laymon's Beast House series. As far as horror goes I much prefer Graham Masterton as an author. The Sphinx was a standout title for me, not because she had six breasts mind you, although that was rather erotic I have to admit, but because he really does weave interesting tales based upon mythical societies etc which leaves you wondering whether there's even a grain of truth to them.

On a side note to this interesting topic, another question if you will? More like a sub-question really ..... do you read novels on an e-reader (Kindle), tablet (iPad, Surface, Galaxy) or do you prefer reading them the old fashioned way?

Laymon's Beast House books are my least-favorite of his, and as much of a Laymon evangelist as I am, I'll flat-out tell people not to read 'The Cellar' because it's sheer, monstrous cruelty for cruelty's sake with an ending that makes zero goddamn sense, especially if you're a woman. The two novels and one novella that come after it are a little better, but they're still Laymon in his 'not giving a fuck about anything' writing state, and Laymon writing torture porn is unsatisfying, especially when there are books like 'The Stake', 'Night in the Lonesome October', and 'Island' that prove he's capable of so much more. :)

The only work of Masterton's I've read is "Charnel House", which was good but didn't leave me with that feeling of 'gotta read them all!'. I shall have to give The Sphinx a try. Hmmm...six breasts, you say? Yes, I think that could be...enjoyable... :-9

I read on both formats, although I prefer a real book to a digital version, my lovely wife bought me a GlowLight Nook for Christmas a few years ago, and that makes reading in bed enjoyable, as she can sleep while I stay up until 2am. My Nook is also a beloved travel companion, since I no longer get told, "We don't have room for seventeen books on this trip, can't you just pick, like, two or three?" Now I can pack five hundred books for vacation and nobody cares. :)

Worst book? I would probably have to say either The Hobbit, or uh... I wanna say it was something by either Asimov or Clarke, was written in the early 1900's, a sci-fi, dealt with clones, I want to say. One of those 'required' reading books that just couldn't keep my interest to save itself. The Hobbit... I've tried reading it on at least 4 or 5 separate occasions. Always got to about page 61 or so, and could NOT make it any further. Funny part is, that was around the part with the trolls. I love the scene, but it is sooooo wordy that it is kinda hard to read.

I'm surprised to see The Hobbit show up as somebody's least-favorite book, not just because I love it but because it takes some serious guts to admit a dislike for that or Lord of the Rings in public. I'm going to guess, based on your description, that the book you had to read was possibly Brave New World by Huxley. It gets assigned frequently in schools, and includes ideas on genetic manipulation and reproduction technology so as to produce people who are more alike than they are dissimilar, and was written in the 1930s. :)

English lit major here, so I've read my fair share of "literature," but while deep and complex books are great for writing papers about, when it comes to reading for pleasure, my tastes are much more pedestrian. For example, the book I enjoyed most in my undergrad years was one of the least fertile in regards to generating great original paper theses - Dracula. I'd read it as a kid and sort of hated it...way too dry and not enough vampire action for my 10-year-old tastes. But when I had to read it again for a gothic fiction class, I fell in love with it. It's an epistolary novel which I suppose could come off as a gimmick if over-abused, but I've personally read so few novels written in that style that it seemed fresh and I was fascinated by it. Vampire fiction as a genre has become one of the most vile fetid slums for terrible prose that I can imagine, but the progenitor of the genre is free from all that baggage and definitely gets my recommendation for anyone wanting to read a "classic" that's a little more awesome than most.

Dracula is another one I wish they'd stop exposing kids to before college, because it's too awesome of a book to ruin for young people. I tolerated it in high school, but absolutely fell head-over-heels for it once I read it again in one of my college-level literature classes. :)

By the way those three books are what Heinlein himself recommended people read. He said that if people only read those three out of all of what he wrote, then they've read most of what he tried to get across. I personally don't care for "Stranger in a Strange Land" but "Starship Troopers" is the most hardcore book I've ever read and I've already said what I like about "Mistress." :)

The worst book I've ever read was probably "As Time Goes By," the official sequel to the film "Casablanca." Ugh, what was I thinking? I was young. People make mistakes!

My favorite author as a kid was Louis Sachar. I read every book he wrote for years. They were very silly and modestly intriguing, but I felt I outgrew them, which is a shame because it was only when I became an adult that Sachar made it big with "Holes." I know almost nothing about that book at all or the movie. People say I should read it and I think, yeah, wow, Louis Sachar, of course! But I just haven't for some reason. I don't know. What kind of an author names their book "Holes?" But if anyone would write a book full of plot holes and advertise it that way it would be Louis Sachar. :lol:

"Starship Troopers" is at least a well-written story, but it's jingoistic message of a person not being a real person until he or she has served in the military done two years of Federal Service (edited to correct this mistake, since Federal Service in the novel can include, but is not limited to, the armed forces, and if you volunteer, the government will find a job for you that fits, so even those with physical disabilities or other things that would disqualify them from a military career that nonetheless serve in technical positions, food prep, etc...) never sat well with me. And while I enjoy the movie, I'm well aware that I'm enjoying it because it's a big-budget, overly-violent satire of fascism, not because there's anything good about the story. I'm cautiously optimistic to see what they do with a remake, assuming it gets off the ground, since they've been talking about doing it for several years. Mostly I just want to see people in power armour blowing the shit out of everything, and where the heck were the Skinnies in the film? I'm easy to please. :) I tried to read "Stranger" but it never jived. Maybe I should give it another go, just to see?

Oh, and "Holes" is excellent. It's a quick read. Give yourself a few uninterrupted hours one day and plow through it. Very, very different from your typical Sachar novel, although the main character's name is Stanley Yelnats, so it still has that Wayside School vibe.

*huggles*

Areala

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Good on you guys for Dracula. I forgot about that one. Frankenstein is also excellent. Two great examples of classic horror. Shit, I forgot A Clockwork Orange as well.

And SCREW impossibly confusing Asian names, even if I want to live in Japan forever! I'll take a job as a mime or something so I don't have to try to pronounce anything.


Another great choice, although I will correct one thing: the film First Blood is the story of John Rambo. The book is the story of 'Rambo, no other name given.

Really? I could have sworn that the book revealed his first name at some point. Oh well, I saw the movie a million times before I read the book so I can admit to likely having subconsciously carried that detail over. I DO however distinctly remember that he got the name "Rambo" from an apple, which I found interesting.

What a shame that the ending of the book was ruined for you in that way. And by the author no less. And at the beginning of the damn book! The ending was arguably the best part. Shame that that was taken from you (though, to be fair, I couldn't enjoy it free of spoilage either, since they discuss it in some of the extra content on one of the First Blood dvds. At least it makes more sense there than on page five).

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"Starship Troopers" is at least a well-written story, but it's jingoistic message of a person not being a real person until he or she has served in the military never sat well with me (and while I enjoy the movie, I'm well aware that I'm enjoying it because it's a big-budget satire of fascism, not because there's anything good about the story). I'm cautiously optimistic to see what they do with a remake, assuming it gets off the ground, since they've been talking about doing it for several years. Mostly I just want to see people in power armour blowing the shit out of everything. I'm easy to please. :) I tried to read "Stranger" but it never jived. Maybe I should give it another go, just to see?

Oh, and "Holes" is excellent. It's a quick read. Give yourself a few uninterrupted hours one day and plow through it. Very, very different from your typical Sachar novel, although the main character's name is Stanley Yelnats, so it still has that Wayside School vibe.

*huggles*

Areala

I didn't take that message from "Starship Troopers," not from the book anyway. In fact I recall the book going out of its way to say that there was nothing wrong about being a civilian, it was just that serving in a military was necessary to be able to vote, and that's because voting is an exercise of force against other people. I found that very interesting to think about and an important insight. People think of voting as some peaceful thing, but it's really not. The book's proposition was that if you presumed to exercise political authority (force) over other people, then you presumed to be a soldier, and carried that to its logical conclusion.

The movie played up the "I'm proud to be a citizen" angle for effect but in the book I think the final message is that voting is overrated and not something nice people do anyway. Exercising political authority over other people is something that should be done with more forethought and respect than people do. In the film there's a bunch of wild and crazy uses of force, and some see that as a satire of the right-wing state, but I see it as a satire of voters in general.

Good to see another Wayside school fan. :)

Edited by marktrade
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1. Over the years my favorite book has changed dramatically. For instance the book I read that stayed with me and made an impact in me up until maybe 19 or 20 was the Autobiography of Malcolm X.

But the book I would say now is my my favorite is Cloud Atlus. The reputation of the movie aside, the book is outstanding. Another book that forces you to look at assumptions about people in a different way. Plus the method of reverse storytelling is compelling. The story's is comprised of 5 interconnect stories that take place chronologically in time, but on half of each story is told before jumping into the next. The fifth story is told in its entirety and then work backwards in time until the first sorry is finished. With foreshadowing and connections between the story's. The first half of the book paints a rather bleak picture of systematic human oppression against each other , whether it's people of color not like us, the treatment of old people, the treatment of women, homosexuals, or even the treatment of artificial clones. The second half of the book is about the freedom from oppression. About humanity being able to overcome and achieve our better nature. As a whole the book is a look at how horrible people can be to each other while also showing the great heights we can reach if we want to.

Some of the other books on this list were possibly favorite books of mine at one point. For awhile Asimov and his foundation books were my favorite, while I had an intense likening of Starshio Troopers and later the Enders game books by Orson Scott card. Also I've only read 3 of his books but I intensely liked Hammer of God by Greg Bear.

At one point I was really into Anne Rice and could absolutely get lost in her Vampire novels. But eventually that series kind of jumped the shark.

I also read every Stephen King book but wouldn't classify any of his books all time favorites. The Dark Tower series coming close.

I had to come back and add this but the Girl with the Dragon Tatoo book series were amazing. A shame the Author died before writing more.

2. Worst book? Probrably many. The easiest for me would be anything Shakespeare. I hate reading them and don't appreciate his plays. I supose I enjoyed Romeo an Juliet. Having to read Shakesoeare in any class usually turned me off. As far as classic American literature, I've great enjoyed Hemingway, but not John Steineck. Of Mice and men really was never enjoyable to me. I have no need to ever read Frankenstein again eigther.

3. Books I'd like to get around to. I greatly enjoy Cormack McCarthys movies. The only book I read of his was The Road which was deeply moving for me. Another all time great. I'd like to read some of his other books. As well as getting around to reading more Heinlein perhaps. I really want to read the books from that famous Japanese writer who's name I can't recall.

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I really want to read the books from that famous Japanese writer who's name I can't recall.

Haruki Murakami. He was conspicuously skipped in all the Japanese literature courses I took. Apparently his writing has been criticized in Japan as being "non-Japanese," so maybe that's why?

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Time to answer these myself. :)

1 - It's really hard to narrow down a best book, isn't it? I'll go with a few like previous respondents.

- Night In the Lonesome October by Richard Laymon. I can't put my finger on exactly what I love so much about this book, but in my opinion it's hands-down the best thing Laymon ever wrote, and it breaks my heart to know he died before it was published. It's the story of Ed Logan, a college student who receives a break-up letter from his girlfriend. Depressed and searching for something he can't identify, he goes out for a long walk one evening through his university town. What (and who) he sees intrigues him enough continue his nightly escapades, but even in a quiet college town, the night belongs to weirdos, sometimes dangerous ones, who aren't all that they seem. Laymon crafts some amazing scenery in this story, and every October when I take a return trip through the story, I find myself transported to that after-dark world that reminds me of my own nighttime jaunts across a college campus.

- Through the Hidden Door by Rosemary Wells. While it's a story written for young adult and teen readers, it's my absolute favorite 'coming of age' tale. The main character, Barney, is a boarding academy student who's fallen in with the wrong crowd at the school. While serving out his punishment for something he didn't do, he meets Snowy, a nearly-blind student who thinks he's discovered something extraordinary in a cave off campus. Snowy needs someone to help him investigate further, and Barney needs a way to avoid the rest of his former friends, who believe he ratted them out, and the two spend more and more time investigating the cave, uncovering something that should be completely impossible, and yet the evidence is staring them right in the face. A reviewer's blurb on the cover remarks that it's "A cross between The Chocolate War and an Indiana Jones archaeological adventure," and that's really about the best way to describe it.

- The Long Walk by Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman. Dystopian literature abounds, but before the likes of Divergent, The Hunger Games, and Battle Royale, there was this menacing, compelling novella which is actually one of the first pieces King ever wrote. Every year, on the first of May, 100 young males volunteer (there is no coercion; this is important and what sets it apart from most other works of this sort) for a competition. Known as "The Long Walk", it is televised and broadcast nationwide across the US, and while there is one ultimate winner, the rest of the nation usually watches, and the competition is fierce, it is no game show. The rules are simple: contestants begin at the starting line, and when the word is given, they begin to walk, and do not stop for anything. The only rules are that they may not physically interfere with one another (though they can help if they so choose), they may not interfere with the monitors of the race, and their pace may not drop below 4 miles per hour. A walker who drops below 4mph receives a warning. A minute later, if he's not at 4mph, he receives a second. Three warnings, and he is disqualified...via a bullet to the head. The last man standing is rewarded with whatever he wants. Reading it, you feel the same slog as the contestants. You watch as tempers flare, alliances form, and rivalries arise. It's a story that stays with you long, long after you're done reading it.

2 - The worst book I ever read? I don't even have to think about this one.

- Firefly by Piers Anthony. Forget all the literature you had to slog through in school. Forget Shakespeare, forget Hawthorne, forget Steinbeck, Hemingway, Hugo, or whatever other pretentious twaddle your teacher assigned your young self to get lost in when you're trying to understand just what it means to be an adult and your own individual human being. Firefly will make you wish you had never been born. Then, after a few hours of sobering realization, you'll come to your senses and begin to wish Piers Anthony had never been born. Oh sure, you hear the name Piers Anthony and you probably think to yourself, "Oh, the charming, avuncular Brit who wrote those Xanth novels I fell in love with as a kid, with Jenny Elf and all the rest! How could you wish ill on him, especially now that he's dead?" Because of this book! 'Firefly' is multiple stories in one. One of those stories is about an alien that crawls into your ass and kills you by essentially overloading your anal pleasure valves or whatever the heck you call all those nerve endings up there as it dehydrates you. OK, weird, but it's sci-fi and King kinda did the same with with Dreamcatcher, so...whatever. Another part, however, involves a minute-by-excruciating-minute retelling by a young girl with eidetic memory of the time when, at five years old, she coerced an adult male into having sex with her. Needless to say, he's on trial for boinking a girl too young to even understand what the hell 'sex' is, but not only does Anthony devote page after page to having the girl (named 'Nymph', I shit you not!) explain in explicit detail exactly what happened and how, but he then has the temerity to have everyone else in the courtroom moved to tears by the beauty of the experience, with the defense lawyer claiming, "The law may say he is guilty, but the law sometimes is an ass." Because the defendant truly loved her, you see, and she came onto him anyway, so it should all be cool...or something?

I finished Firefly because a friend told me it was the worst thing he'd ever read, and I honestly thought he was pulling my leg when he described the plot. At least half a dozen times while reading, I set it down and was like, "OK, that cannot possibly get any worse", only to pick the book back up and realize that not only was I wrong, but I was wrong in ways I didn't know one could be wrong. Seriously, don't read Firefly. Ever.

Oh, who am I kidding, you've probably got Amazon open in another tab already. :)

3 - Book I've always wanted to read but never gotten around to.

I don't have one particular book, but I do have a particular author. Yukio Mishima is a fascinating person from what little I've read about his life, and I have a number of his books, I just have yet to start any of them. Maybe he will be part of my vacation reading project this year. :)

*huggles*
Areala

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Another part, however, involves a minute-by-excruciating-minute retelling by a young girl with eidetic memory of the time when, at five years old, she coerced an adult male into having sex with her. Needless to say, he's on trial for boinking a girl too young to even understand what the hell 'sex' is, but not only does Anthony devote page after page to having the girl (named 'Nymph', I shit you not!) explain in explicit detail exactly what happened and how, but he then has the temerity to have everyone else in the courtroom moved to tears by the beauty of the experience, with the defense lawyer claiming, "The law may say he is guilty, but the law sometimes is an ass." Because the defendant truly loved her, you see, and she came onto him anyway, so it should all be cool...or something?

Ah, underage sexuality. When it's depicted in photographs or film, witnessing it is a crime so heinous that you'll shoot to the top of both the FBI and prison inmate murder lists. When it's depicted in the pages of a book, writing it is an act of artistry so bold that you'll be considered a daring literary visionary and likely shoot to the top of the bestseller list.

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I stopped reading A Game of Thrones for much the same reason. I could tell the book was going to be a slog-fest like all epic fantasy, with no one I was actually going to like, but as soon as Martin started explaining how Drogo went about deflowering his 14-year old child bride, I said, "NOPE!" and the book went into the trash. :)

*huggles*
Areala

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I stopped reading A Game of Thrones for much the same reason. I could tell the book was going to be a slog-fest like all epic fantasy, with no one I was actually going to like, but as soon as Martin started explaining how Drogo went about deflowering his 14-year old child bride, I said, "NOPE!" and the book went into the trash. :)

*huggles*

Areala

I love the overall arc of A Song of Ice and Fire / Game of Thrones, the writing and character development are actually really good. For a little while there the story was pretty straight without a whole lot of high fantasy, which is something that I very much enjoyed (not that I dislike high fantasy, but in this case I was far more interested in the straightforward political intrigue between the various medieval houses).

Then, perhaps predictably, things just starting going too far. The fantasy elements became more integral to the plot (I think we're going to see that with the next book / tv season more than ever before), the number of supporting characters became ridiculous, and the author became overly fixated on certain things: namely, sex and descriptions of food.

I don't regret getting into Game of Thrones (I began with the show, not the books) but I'm kind of shocked by how unenthusiastic I am about the new season that's going to begin in a couple of days. The last couple of books were relatively boring and difficult to get through (book four in particular) and I'm of the opinion that the last season of the show (covering the aforementioned couple of books, no coincidence there) was easily the worst. Taken as a whole the book and tv series are both still great, but they've moved so far beyond what got me interested in either one to begin with. I'm no prude - I LOVES me some naked women - but I easily tire of sex-driven narratives (to say nothing of absolutely arbitrary sex that's there for no reason other than irrelevant titillation, something that critics of the show have coined as "sexposition"). I love a small handful of the main characters that are still around but the overwhelming majority of characters that interested me the most are dead and gone. I have little to no interest in getting to know anybody new because the more intricate storyline that tied everybody together has crumbled so that the simpler story of "who's going to stop the great evil from the north and is this chick ever going to get her shit together" that was percolating in the background could be allowed to shift to the forefront. And now that the show has not only caught up to but passed the point of being up to date with the books, many changes - small and large, tolerable and terrible - are popping up all over the place.

Some people are just as excited about the next season and book, and more to them. To me the greatness that began GRRM's magnum opus has really started to slip away, and I'm simply not very intrigued to see what happens next. The hook has dulled with time and I've slipped right off.

...Er, uh.. so yeah, the story has indeed become a fairly unlikable slog. I think that's the point that I was going for somewhere in there.

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I finished Firefly because a friend told me it was the worst thing he'd ever read, and I honestly thought he was pulling my leg when he described the plot. At least half a dozen times while reading, I set it down and was like, "OK, that cannot possibly get any worse", only to pick the book back up and realize that not only was I wrong, but I was wrong in ways I didn't know one could be wrong. Seriously, don't read Firefly. Ever.

stop tempting me to buy/read this book with a review like "it's terrible and gets worse and worse" because i now feel i need to experience it firsthand.

luckily, i've got 3-4 books i already bought that i'll probably never get around to reading, so i can safely forget about this one.

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