Anyone else reading with intent to discuss? : LUSENET : The Book Club : One Thread

Is anyone still out there?

If so, I've been reading a couple of interesting (albeit non-fiction) things - a comparative biography of Charles and Cromwell, The King the Gentleman and Bill Bryson's latest on Australia. Also the Harry Potter series, but besides discussions of how cool it would be to have your very own hippogriff, perhaps they're not really in the spirit of the thing.

-- anna (, June 23, 2000


Hi Anna--

I'm still here! But of course, I haven't anything to say about any of your books except Harry Potter (who I think is adorable, he makes me want to have kids so that I can read it to 'em :) ). The fourth book comes out in a week, you know. I hear some bookstores are renting out live owls for their parties. (Where do you rent a live owl?)

I am interested in talking to anyone who would want to discuss Ayn Rand-- I just tore through The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and am eager to hear what anyone besides the crazy customer reviewers at amazon have to say.

People, come back to the book club!!!

-- Marilyn (, June 30, 2000.

I've read Bill Bryson's book as well, Anna. I actually did a mini- review of his books in general here< /a>, but would be happy to discuss Down Under in particular. Most of his books, although highly readable and amusing seem a little sameish and repetitive to me.

Another book I've been reading that I'd really like to hear other people's opinions of is Co nversations with God: an uncommon dialogue. I'm reading Book 1 at the moment and finding it fascinating. I'd love to hear what people think of this book, what he's saying in it, and how it compares to the other 2 (?) books. I know absolutely zip about this author, so would be interested to hear any comments.

-- Abigail (, July 03, 2000.

Ooops. Me bad.

-- Abigail (, July 03, 2000.

Am currently reading Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood, and loving it. The story begins with a woman who has apparently faked her own death and gone off to live in a rundown Italian (?) villa. After a bit of that the story flashes into the past and talks about the woman's childhood, which has a lot of parallels with my own -- it's simultaneously hilarious and painful to read, because I recognize it so well. But anyway.

-- Jan (, July 06, 2000.

Yeah, I'm still here!

Abigail, you've sparked an interest in me to revisit Atwood's older books (Lady Oracle is quite a few yrs old, yes?). I remember loving [i] Cat's Eye[/i] and more recently, [i]The Robber Bride [/i]. I just might pick up Lady Oracle now.

Marilyn, I would like to talk about Ayn Rand! I read [i]The Fountainhead[/i] a few years after college. I found her ideas shocking--the idea that altruism is "bad" (and at the time, I was contemplating nursing school. It really made me think about my own motivations to "help others". ) Many women read Rand and get very jazzed about the ideas presented in her books (which I don't think are great works of art, but rather vehicles to present her philosophies), maybe more so than guys. I found a copy of [i]The Virtue of Selfishness[/i] at a yard sale...haven't read it yet, though. Have you read any of her non fiction works, or anything by her disciple who's name I can't recall right now? The guy who handled her estate and books after her death.

-- Erica (, July 06, 2000.

Whoops. Me also bad.

-- Erica (, July 06, 2000.

i'm also a big atwood fan and i just finished reading alias grace. anyone else read this so far? my impression is that it's not her best (my favorite is still cat's eye) but i did get a lot out of it.

recommendation - the invisible circus - great book! i actually read this about a year ago but i'm re-reading it now and i still love it. it's a coming of age story but it's written really well and is much more thought provoking than most coming-of-age tales.

-- jess (, July 06, 2000.

Leonard Piekoff is the Ayn Rand intellectual heir. Did you know part of her inner circle included Alan Greenspan? You know, the Fed Chairman. I haven't read the Fountainhead or any others... I did read a biography written by Barbara Branden, "The Passion of Ayn Rand." Branden and her ex-husband, physchologist Nathaniel Branden were also part of Rand's inner circle but were eventually shunned because of Nathaniel's refusal to continue a long-standing affair with Rand. (both parties SO's knew of the affair for many years.)

Another interesting read on the whole objectivist movement, though highly critical and somewhat lacking in objectivity at times, is "The Ayn Rand Cult" by Jeff Walker. Both Branden and Walker portray a woman who is much the antithesis of her celebrity. Both wickedly controlling and profoundly nasty, she apparently could be quite charming. I really think the woman had some mental health issues.... She had some serious issues from her leaving Russia and in all my life I've never heard of someone with such an ego. Her followers are almost portrayed as highly intellectual, socially inept lemmings.

For more information on her institute, you can go do You'll get a new window.

Harry Potter rocks - you really don't have to be a kid to enjoy him! Very fun reading - and it reads pretty quickly. Only thing is that things are repeatedly explained.

I'm also reading Anita Shreve's "Where or When" about re-meeting the love of your life. I really like her writing - she manages to move me and really offer unique tidbits without being silly about it. For example, in "The Pilot's Wife," you could really feel empathy for the family over the terrible news reports on the TV & in the paper. You could feel the embarrassment and betrayal of the wife. You could understand her feelings when she found his jeans - and I read it like a year ago and I remember those feelings still.

I've bought all the Shreve books except one and intend to finish them all.... someday.

-- grace (, July 06, 2000.

BTW - Marilyn (I think),

Rand's books WERE supposed to be vehicles for her philosophical ideals. Many of her reviewers do overlook Rand's liberal "borrowing" of ideas from other writers of the early 1900's—sometimes even ancient philosophers! What you're reading on Amazon is a bunch of college kids who've gotten involved with a Rand group, maybe an adult devotee. Most of her novels were completely panned by critics & the only movies made are those by those who are her followers. (kinda like John Travolta & L. Ron Hubbard's "Battlefield Earth") The guaranteed audience is the followers; it is a propaganda vehicle. (not propaganda in a bad sense, but as a genre - like the Bible.)

-- grace (, July 06, 2000.

I've been reading Bill, too, and I wrote a spot about his new book, known as Down Under in Australia and the UK, and the rather more imaginative A Sunburnt Country in the US. The latter title is a reference to one of Australia's most famous poems, which makes it all the more odd that theyd use it in the US where the poem is probably not known.

(Ive also written about that poem, as it happens, but the entry's currently not online. Fortunately. I think one gratuitous self- referencing link per post is enough, don't you?)

I just read Abigails great review of Brysons books, and shes absolutely right in saying that Brysons wit and style sometimes cover up shoddy research. He gets it very wrong about Australian English in The Mother Tongue, as she states, though in his defence I will say hes quoting from a study that was, in itself, glaringly incorrect on a number of points, which he then went ahead and replicated in his book. I have a copy of that study from my uni days, I should dig it out sometime.

As for Margaret Atwood, hmm. The Handmaids Tale is brilliant, of course, but most of her other writing leaves me emotionally cold: I can appreciate her skill, but not get drawn into her stories. I quite liked Alias Grace until the wimp-out ending, though.

Ive been avoiding the Harry Potter bandwagon precisely because a bandwagons what its become. Are they really worth reading? Please advise.

-- Georgina (, July 07, 2000.

Harry Potter - I can say that they are. I found them literate, amusing and not too kiddish, although as someone said above, she does tend to re-explain too much for an older reader's enjoyment.

Rowling manages to capture the isolation of a different child as well as the wonder of discovery. She is also a dab hand with fictional animals, which I for one just love.


-- Anna (, July 07, 2000.

If you can, check out the Potter books from the library - though they are hard to find. I *wish* there wasn't the blantantly commercial overkill here in the U.S. Would be nice to see these books become silent classics rather than overnight successes.

Potter is worth reading, but you *won't* find me at B&N at midnight tonight to purchase.... That's silly.

-- grace (, July 07, 2000.

Yes, the whole commercialization of Harry Potter is sick-making and I'm so not looking forward to the movie, the dolls, the lunchboxes, etc and ad naseum. It just seems....wrong. I read the first Harry Potter book at my sister's insistence (she teaches children's lit at the college level). I liked it. Didn't love it. I still don't see what the MAJOR fuss is all about. It is good, a sweet story. I don't like the hype at all, though.

Re: Rand. That was me who said her books are vehicles...I also never thought her books were "good." Also, at the end of the day, I too felt her to be a little unbalanced and egomanical and frankly, while her objective philosophy has some appealling and valid points, life just isn't that cut and dried. In fact, her characters in The Fountainhead were so black and white that it was kind of ridiculous. Sorry, Ayn, but life is a little more messy and complicated and I'm not prepared to throw the baby out with the bathwater when someone I care for shows a bit of "weakness" or asks for my help.

On a light hearted note. Anyone read David Sedaris? I'm reading his newest collection of essays, Me Talk Pretty One Day. I LOVE that man! One of the few writers that make me laugh out loud.

-- Erica (, July 07, 2000.

Love David Sedaris. The boyfriend has a collection of Sedaris' short stories (The Santaland Diaries), and I picked it up to read it one day and finished it in one three-hour sitting. Totally hilarious -- I especially love the one that's in the format of a Christmas letter to friends from this woman whose husband brought home a Vietnamese prostitute. My God, I thought I would never stop laughing. (It's funnier than it sounds, I swear.)

-- Jan (, July 07, 2000.

Oh, I forgot I was going to talk about Ayn Rand, too. My high school German teacher gave me a copy of The Fountainhead to read on the way to our school trip to Germany, and I finished it before we landed in Frankfurt. At the time, I really loved it, felt it applied to my life, and considered using it as a model for my personal social interactions.

I loved the idea that socialism is evil because it takes from those who have the initiative to make money and gives to slackers and lazy- asses who have done nothing to deserve it. I also liked the idea that altruism was inherently bad and that the world should essentially be 'every man for himself.' I think it really appealed to me because I'd been made fun of a lot in high school for being a "super genius" or whatever. I liked the idea that I was somehow a more worthwhile person because I was smarter than them.

Then I grew up and realized that the world isn't quite so black and white, that altruism is a good thing, and that some aspects of socialism really aren't that bad. I still have a special place in my heart for The Fountainhead (I also read Atlas Shrugged in my Ayn Rand phase), but I no longer subscribe wholeheartedly to its theories.

-- Jan (, July 07, 2000.

I just got "A Sunburned Country" (not burnt, and he says in the introduction that he knows that it should be burnt) and am trying not to read it until I finish the book that I'm currently reading, Terry Pratchett's Jingo, a book that I love, but I really want to start on the Bryson! I feel like Molly, who asks for another book to be read before you get to the last page of the book that you are reading to her.

I'm going out today to try to get a Harry Potter, two actually, 'cause I'm getting one as a surprise for Katie. I read Harry Potter before the hype and I love the books muchly, mostly because they are the kind of books that I love anyway! Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper, Wilaine Scheider Belden, Diane Duane, this is my genre, and Harry Potter goes right in with them.

-- Kymm Zuckert (, July 08, 2000.

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