What We’re Reading Wednesday July 21, 2021 — Guest Post

Current reads in all their forms from Stanley Dunn

Image created by the editor in Canva

I am grateful for the opportunity to share what I am reading with the Your Book Friend community. I have followed Amanda’s postings for a while, as I am always on the prowl for book recommendations. My lists may pale in comparison, but if this list helps a reader in some way I would be pleased. I divide my reading into four forms:

  1. epub, mobi, or pdf books,
  2. Hardcover or paperback books,
  3. Longform articles, and
  4. Audiobooks

So here is the list for this Wednesday! None of the links below are affiliate links.

  1. Epub, mobi and pdf books

Epub and mobi books are the mainstay of my reading since most of the books I read are advance reader copies (ARCs) for publishers that I receive through services such as NetGalley and Edelweiss+. The service provides the book, and the reviewer is expected to post a review; typically to Amazon, Goodreads, Bookbub or a blog. Every once in a while a publisher will provide a protected pdf, which is why I must add pdf to the list.

Castle Shade, by Laurie King, 2021

Currently, I am reading Castle Shade by Laurie King. This is a Sherlock Holmes novel in which Holmes and his wife (!) are enlisted to by the Queen of Roumania (who is a descendant of the royal British family) to find the source(s) of a series of threats to the Queen and her family at the castle Bran on the border of Roumania and Transylvania. I have been a big Holmes fan from the time I was in graduate school and I used to watch the old Basil Rathbone films on Saturday nights. I await to find out what is keeping the Queen from rebuilding Roumania into a force in Europe.

Shirley Jackson: Four Novels of the 1940s & 50s, combined edition 2020

I have recently finished Shirley Jackson: Four Novels from the 1940s and 50s. This is a mammoth volume at 850 pages. If you haven’t read Jackson, you should — before reading (and reviewing this book) I was unaware that she wrote horror. The language is precise and the tension builds with every word, and every sentence. I have never before been drawn into horror books so methodically.

The Death of Vazir-Mukhtar by Yury Tynyanov, 2021

At the same time, I finished The Death of Vazir Mukhtar by Yury Tynyanov. Tynyanov is a modern-day Russian author and this is a historical fiction accounting of the last year of the life — and the death of Alexander Griboedov, the Russian emissary to Persia in the 1820s. Although the author and the book is considered to be important, I found it to be uneven, with too much time spent accounting for the main character in Russia before he is sent to Persia. Griboedov was murdered in 1829 by a Tehrani mob, written in excruciating detail. We know Griboedov was not accepted in Persia, but it is hard to believe that it all took place so suddenly, as described in the book. This is an issue left for the scholars.

2. Hardcover or paperback books
I spend all day in front of a computer and some days by 5pm I cannot look at a screen again, even with blue light filtering on. I make sure that I have something different and maybe just fun to read.

Right now I have two books: Mute by Piers Anthony and The Alienist by Caleb Carr.

Mute, by Piers Anthony, 1st edition published in 2014

Science Fiction always gives us a lens on culture of the times, and Mute, written in 1981, is no different. In Mute, mankind is ruled by the Coordination Computer. Our main character, Knot, a mutant with special powers opposes the computer but is lured into serving the CC by the lovely Finesse (nevermind that he is married). The majority of the book is the journey that Knot, Finesse and two characters take from his home to the CC which has been taken over by Piebold and his minions. This sets the stage for the battle between Knot and Piebold for control of the CC and the future of humanity. The problem for me was that there were too many sexual encounters and Anthony’s messages about culture at the time were way too explicit. I am coming close to the conclusion by this Wednesday, so I hope to report back soon.

The Alienist, by Caleb Carr, 2006

The other paperback, The Alienist, is an historical fictional account of the treatment of mental health in the late 1890s. Abstracted from a prefatory note in the book: “Prior to the 20th century, people suffering from mental illness were thought to be ‘alienated’ from themselves and from the rest of society. Those experts who studied mental pathologies were known as alienists.”

This is a gruesome book, and many of the individual stories are both difficult to read and at the same time sad. The Alienist was on the New York Times Best Seller List for six months and it is easy to understand why; it is hard to believe how much of our understanding and treatment of mental health has changed in a little over 100 years.

3. Longform Articles
While technically not books, or even novellas, I have taken recently to start to read longform articles. For those unfamiliar with the form, a longform article is longer than the typical newspaper article, but shorter than a novella. A longform article might take you anywhere between 10 minutes and one hour to read.

Right now I am finishing a series of longform articles on Climate Change from The New York Times Magazine of June 27. The current article that I am finishing is how shipping companies are “greening the waves” to quote the title of the article, with many shipping companies using wind power to offset diesel usage.

Front page of longform.org (date last accessed July 18, 2021).

Last night I read a longform article from the New York Intelligencer entitled “The Kids are All Right” by David Wallace-Wells about COVID safety protocols for young children. My next article is from The Atlantic magazine by Tahir Hamut Izgil, a celebrated Uyghur writer who gives his account of the genocide in Xinjiang (see above). You can find this, and many other interesting reads at longform.org, or one of the many other sources of longform articles. If you need help finding some, please contact me and I will share what I know.

4. Audiobooks

The Mangle Street Murders by MRC Kasasian, produced 2014

I am never without an electronic book and an audiobook or two. This morning I finished The Mangle Street Murders by M.R.C. Kasasian and started Death Descends on Saturn Villa by the same author. I picked up the recommendation to the author and this series here on Medium and chose to use them to round out my audiobook listening. These Victorian crime novels chronicle the adventures of private detective Sidney Grice and his young ward March Middleton, who, no doubt wants to help solve the cases and invariably gets into troubles of her own. Highly entertaining and enough of a mystery to keep you guessing to the end.

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, produced 2008

And oh yes, one New Year resolution was to listen to Atlas Shrugged — all 63 hours of it — by the end of the year. I am 62% of the way through as of today, July 18. Wish me luck.

I have enjoyed sharing both ‘’what’’ I am reading as well as ‘’how’’ I read or listen using different media. I touch at least 3, if not all 4 every day. It helps to keep me a fresh reader. I wish the same for you.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this, why not give Your Book Friend a follow?

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