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I started the year with pneumonia, which has seriously reduced my reading time - boy was my doctor right when he told me that pneumonia is a different class of disease than bronchitis!
But now things are in control, the evil bacteria have been killed and I just need some time for my lungs to become fully healthy again. :) Which means more reading time, although that will go down again as I hope I will be able to start working again in not too long.
I have very loose reading goals this year: read at least 50 books which is my usual goal, read short fiction, read works that have received the Hugo or Nebula award, and track down everything that Ted Chiang has written.
Astrophics for people in a Hurry (March 26)
Le petit garçon qui voulait être mort (May 8)
Les livres prennent soin de nous (May 8)
Le poumon vert (January 12) - > finished of February, 4
Heureux qui communique (March 4) -> finished on March, 18
Railsea (January 2) - > finished on April, 19
La clé de l'abîme (February 13) -> finished on May, 13
Kornwolf (March 13) -> finished on June, 15
Les paupières by Yoko Ogawa -> finished on June, 24
A star indicates an author new to me.
* Elan Mastai (Canada, male)
Émile Zola (France, male) x3
Christelle Dabos (France, female) x2
* Yoko Ogawa (Japan, female) x2
Ian R. MacLeod (UK, male)
Alastair Reynolds (UK, male) x2
Ted Chiang (US, male)
* Malcolm X and Alex Haley (US, male)
Jacques Salomé (France, male)
* Jo Walton (Wales-Canada, female)
Jon Kabat-Zinn (US, male)
Gail Carriger (US, female) *2
Raymond Queneau (France, male)
China Miéville (UK, male)
Cory Doctorow (US, male)
* Marshall Rosenberg (US, male)
Jose Carlos Somoza (Spain, male)
* Barbara Demick (US, female)
Haruki Murakami (Japan, male)
Carole Martinez (France, female)
* Anneliese Mackintosh (Germany, UK, female)
* Leila Slimani (Morocco/France, female)
Tristan Egolf (US, male)
* Sarah Waters (UK, female)
* N. K. Jemisin (US, female) x2
Marie-Monique Robin (France, female)
* Juan Manuel de Prada (Spain, male)
* Tanith Lee (UK, female)
Ted Chiang writes science-fiction. One of his novellas, Stories of your life, inspired the movie Arrival. As far as I know he writes only short fiction and some of them are freely available online so it should be easy for you to see if he's your type or not.
It's funny that we both aim at reading Hugo and Nebula recipients. :) I'll be waiting for your thoughts on The demolished man, which I haven't read.
I was wondering myself if I should try to go through them chronologically or not. Though I'm sure there are some gems in the older ones, I have a feeling that many may feel outdated... And then I don't plan on focusing on the latest Hugo recipients, as I feel that the rabid puppies affair has removed a lot of legitimacy to this award.
All our wrong todays by Elan Mastai
(read in French)
I don't know if it was because I was sick or not, but it took me a long time to get into this book. The beginning (150 pages out of ~450) felt very long and not that interesting.
We know from the start that the main protagonist, Tom Barren, comes to the world we know from a different time line. In his reality, a genius called Goettreider has invented a clean and very powerful energy source in 1965; thechnology has made immense progress following this, and the world in 2016 basically looks like what the science-fiction of the 1950s imagined.
But a time travelling experiment went wrong somewhere and Tom winds up in our dirty, poor, and full of conflicts reality.
My interest was piqued at the moment of the time travelling experiment, and again further more at a later turn of events.
The book is written in very short chapters (which made it easy for a sick person to read) and with a deliberately simple style. This is supposed to be Tom's memoirs, and Tom is not a writer (and there are maybe a few two many fourth wall jokes about this for my taste).
All in all this was an enjoyable and short read (once I was done with the first 150 pages), and the time travelling plot was enjoyable.
Rating: 3.5 *
>15 chlorine: I've seen this one mentioned elsewhere I think. I can never quite decide whether I want to read it, though I do love time travel. Sounds like it could be interesting but not necessarily one to go hunting down specially.
Concerning All our wrong todays, I think it was auntmartge who read it at the end of last year. You sum up my thoughts exactly, interesting but not one to hunt down, but if I remember correctly she liked it much more than me.
Yup, that was me :)
Le ventre de Paris features Florent, coming back to Paris after having escaped the penal colony in Cayenne. He arrives almost starving, and happens to come to the newly built Halles, which was an immense market that was designed for the bulk selling of food for the provisioning of Paris. The first part is poignant, as Florent, almost fainting from hunger, is surrounded by such enormous quantities of food (as a side note, I was sick at the time I began this novel and had no appetite and had trouble to force myself to eat - it was also strange for me to read about so much food at such a time).
Florent will end up being an inspector for the fish selling market, while living at his brother's who owns a delikatessen - and therefore he will remain surrounded by the Halles and by food.
Food is one of the central themes of the novel, with all kinds of food store inventories described in great details, in the great writing of Zola. We also observe the beginnings of industrial breeding of animals, with chickens and pigeons being bred in caves, packed so close to one another that they cannot move.
One of the main characters of the novel, Claude Lantier (the main protagonist of L'œuvre), even sees life as a war between the Fat and the Too Thin (my dictionary doesn't provide a satisfying translation for maigre which means too thin). This is linked to the second theme of the novel, politics: the Fat are the store-owners, well fed, complacent with the imperial regime of Napoléon III, and the Too Thin are the ill fed majority of the people, the republicans. Florent, who had been convicted and sent to the penal colony by mistake, will react to being surrounded by so much food and Fat people by becoming involved in politics and think about overthrowing the regime - though he approaches this with much naivety.
This is a great book, very well written, full of interesting characters - one aspect that I did not mention is the relationships between all the women who sell food at the Halles, with friendships and feuds emerging and subsiding, everybody constantly watching what everybody else is doing or is wearing.
A personal note: I had to study L'œuvre while I was in highschool. This was a time at which I never liked a book that I had to study for school, and this did not fail for this one, which I did not read in its entirety even though I already loved Zola at the time. However, the character of Claude Lantier, the main protagonist of L'œuvre, makes a lot of appearances in this book and I have to say I was rather bored with him (he is a painter and I have almost no interest in painting, so maybe this explains that). This makes me wonder if I will like L'œuvre when I get to it, and whether I should skip it or not. But since I have more than 10 books in the series to read before I get there, I have time to make up my mind and change it lots of times!
Intrigued by the setting of All the Wrong Todays.
"But a time travelling experiment went wrong somewhere and Tom winds up in our dirty, poor, and full of conflicts reality."
I think I've had this problem too.
I had some reservations about The Masterpiece before I read it, feeling I knew too little about art to appreciate it - not that I know anything about railways or mines, but the human/working conditions in La Bête Humaine andGerminal had something to relate to. Anyway, after reading it about fifteen months ago, I have to say I am really glad I read it. I feel I now know more about art and about Zola himself. Apart from that, Claude is a character I was interested in and his story, and the story of the politics of art were excellent. This is not a happy book though. On a Zola scale, if there was such a thing, starting at unhappy, it would probably rate well towards the most unhappy end.
edited for italics
>22 chlorine: Just realized that I haven't read much French literature. Is Zola a good place to start?
>28 shuwanted: I suspect we do have similar tastes also! :) I haven't read Conservation of shadows but I'm making a note of it.
Concerning French litterature: if you're interested in the classics I'd say Zola is a great place to start. The two other very well known authors that pop to my mind, Hugo and Balzac, are way too verbose for my taste. Of course other people will have different opinions.
Another author that might be more easy to get into is Alexandre Dumas of the Three Musketeers fame. Many people here have been raving about The Count of Monte-Christo, but I can't say I share their enthusiasm, as I thought the book was way too long and the fact that it appeared as a serial is way too obvious.
The three musketeers itself is an engaging read, and I heartily recommend Queen Margot, a historical novel about Henry IV and his wife Marguerite de Valois (the Margot of the title).
Then keep in mind that I'm far from being the best person to give advice on French litterature.
The ladies's paradise is interesting in that it's much more cheerful than many other of his books, which whether they deal with the rich or the poor classes of society of the time, often are very good at capturing the sordid aspects of life and the hypocrisy of many characters.
There are several other books for which I have a soft spot, but I'll just name Nana, about a poor woman who becomes an actress, is very remarked upon for her beauty, and from there becomes more and more famous at the same time as she turns into some kind of high class prostitute.
Did not read Balzac in almost two decades, but i have fond memories of reading Le Lys dans la Vallée for school.
Hugo is obviously verbose and plots are transparently only there to allow for large digressions on his favourite idea of the moment. BUT what a prose !
Guy de Maupassant could also be a good start and ,being of a master of the short story genre, his writing is more on point and tight.
If your definition of classics extends to the XXth century, i heartily recommend Louis-Ferdinand Celine and his Voyage au bout de la Nuit.
“A God who counts minutes and pennies, a desperate sensual God, who grunts like a pig. A pig with golden wings, who falls and falls, always belly side up, ready for caresses, that’s him, our master. Come, kiss me.”
I haven't read Céline so I can't comment. Maybe one day I'll get to him.
I think two of the early books in the Rougon- Macquart series that really hooked me were Money and The Kill with their utter ruthlessness.
I don't know if you are aware of the 1994 French Movie, which is what drew me to the book?
>15 chlorine: I read this last year too. I enjoyed it, though I felt it went on a bit too long at the end. I like time travel stories, although I am not too interested in technical/scientific issues about how it is accomplished.
I stalled on the Rougon-Macquart series several years ago about half-way through. Coincidentally, the book I stalled on is The Masterpiece, which is strange because I love art and art history. I need to get back to it. I'm especially curious about it having one of the most unhappy endings.
>33 Niurn: Re Celine I read Journey to the End of Night many years ago and remember nothing about it. It is one book (of many) I would like to reread. I also have unread on my shelf Death on the Installment Plan which I need to get to.
Do let us know if you get back to The Masterpiece, I would be very interested in your comments!
This is the second book in the series of three started with Les fiancés de l'hiver.
We still follow Ophélie and her fiancé Thorn in the intrigues of the court of Farouk, the family spirit of the Polar Arch. I'm still not a fan of how the relationship between these two is led (I'm fed up when characters are in a romance and don't realise it), and Ophélie has a Harry Potter tendency to withdraw information from those who could use it better than her, who is often clueless, that annoyed me.
This being said, this book broaches the subject of how the world came to be as it is, sundered into arches each ruled by a family spirit, immortal giants with magical powers that they have passed on to their descendance, which are the inhabitants of each ark. This made this second book more interesting than the first for me.
I hope the third and final book, which I'll certainly read, brings a satisfying answer to the questions that are hinted at about the origin of the family spirits.
I hardly ever go to the library anymore and it's a miracle I still had a valid membership card to be able to borrow books. I'm so glad I did because I tought it was great seeing the selections of books that are offered - I mostly choose my reading based on LT reviews and seldom have outside opinions.
This book was part of the January selection offered by the library.
Cristallisation secrète by Yôko Ogawa
The title translates, without surprise, to Secret Cristallisation, but it seems that this book was published in English under the title The Memory Police: A Novel.
lilisin: if you drop by and have an easy way of finding out, I would love to know what the original Japanese title translates to in English. :)
The original title given in the book in roman character is Hisoyakanna kessho
This book is located on an (unnamed) island on which lives an (unnamed) young woman. Both her parents have died, and she lives by herself; her job is writing novels so that her only professional contact is with her editor, R. She doesn't see many people, her only regular contact being the husband of her former nanny who also passed away. She goes very regularly, almost daily, to visit the old man, whom she calls the grandfather (I'm not sure how it is in English, but in French, and apparently in Japanese also, grandfather can be used as a term to denote any old man, with whom there may be no family relationship - though in this case, the grandfather, having been the husband of her nanny, is someone who has been close to her for her whole life).
On this island, things sometimes disappear: you wake up one morning and you know something has disappeared - you have to focus to understand what. These disappearances are fantastical in their realisation: everybody on the island knows what is the thing that disappeared - be it roses, birds, photographs, perfume, emeralds, or some type of vegetable or sweet. This does not mean that the thing actually disappeared from the earth - rather, it disappeared from everybody's consciousness: people become unable to remember what the thing was and what its relevance was; even if they are confronted with the object it seems strange and foreign to them. On disappearances days, people have to physically get rid of the objects they owned that have disappeared. The special police ensures that.
Some people, for some reason, don't forget the things that have disappeared. This was the case of the young woman's mother, who kept one copy of each disappeared thing hidden in her basement, and who was summoned by the secret police - and died while she was there, officially from a heart attack.
This short novel is written in a very sober style but that manages to still be moving.The relationship between the young woman and the grandfather is very subtle and beautiful, with not much said but much feeling between them. The book has a dystopian feel with the secret police roaming the streets hunting down the people who remember or collect disappeared things: everybody clearly feels a need to behave in a proper way even if they don't remember anything at all. The strange thing here is that remembering disappeared thing does not seem to be a conscious act of resistance; and the people who don't remember are in general very quick to submit and accept things as they are (this thing has disappeared? Well, what do you want, we'll learn to live without it. We don't need to worry), but it is not clear whether it is a submissive attitude to an authority or the very nature of the disappearances themselves. The young woman herself describes disappearances as creating cavities in her heart.
All in all, this was a quiet, moving book, with a strong atmosphere and quite original. I highly recommend it.
Rating: 4 *
Revenge had already caught my attention so maybe I'll turn to this one when I seek out more of her books.
Ogawa seems like a very interesting author and I'm really glad I stumbled upon this book.
This novella describes the life of Jalila, a girl on the Habara planet, as she experiences deep changes: first moving with her mothers (this is a universe in which men are a rarity, women reproducing with the aid of technology) from the very scarcely populated high plains to a sea-side town, then puberty, coming to terms with the many people her age in her new town, slowly becoming an adult, and experiencing romance. The mysterious tariqa, a strange, old woman able to drive interstellar ships through rips in space-time, makes her wonder what life is really about.
This is a well written, contemplative story about a young girl slowly coming into adulthood. The world she lives in seems almost incidental to her story - but then there's a nice turn of events at the end.
Rating: 3.5 *
French editor Le Bélial has a collection which publishes novellas as stand alone books, which I think is great. The covers are nice and give a feeling of consistency for the collection. I especially liked the fact that a bookmark with the title and a part of the cover art is provided. Nice touch!
Note: this book was first published as a stand-alone book in the Revelation Space universe. A sequel to it has been published early this year - Elysium Fire, and therefore this first book was re-published with a new title: Aurora Rising.
Alastair Reynolds really knows how to write good stories. This takes place in the Glitter Band - a ring of 10,000 inhabited satellites (some of them large enough to hold populations of millions) orbiting the planet of Yellowstone. A horrible crime is committed: a whole habitat, housing more than 900 people, is gouged open, obviously by the blast of an intergalactic spaceship's motor, and nobody survives. Since such spaceships don't usually come close to the Glitter Band, and one was there at the time of the attack, the case seems obvious. Prefect Tom Dreyfus is sent to investigate.
Dreyfus is a very good Prefect, an agent of the Panoply, the agency charged with maintaining democracy within the Glitter Band. Dreyfus is a man who shows very little emotion, and is fully dedicated to his job. Many people find him annoying and wish he was able to be a little more easy with himself and with the rules, but he is an excellent prefect, with a long field expertise. When his instincts tell him that something is off with this case, it seems that he will unravel something much bigger than what he expected...
Reynolds builds a very rich world, full of details and minor stories that contribute to the overall story arch, and the story is also very well built and gripping - we follow several characters for most of the novel, without losing track of what is going on, and the different stories and events combine to form a vast and fascinating story which is a mix of a police procedural and a space opera.
Very highly recommended, as well as all the Revelation Space series.
Reading Revelation Space is IMO recommended to get some familiarity with the universe and some events that are referred to in this book, but should not be mandatory.
After a discussion on rating on Monkey's thread, I hesitated to give this 5 stars as I think this book achieves what it wants to achieve perfectly. However, it still lacks something to be a perfect book for _me_, though I would be hard pressed to define what it is that's missing.
My ratings are usually defined by how much I will pester other people to read the corresponding book, and I'm ready to let you sleep before reading this one, so it's not a five stars.
In the series, I do think Revelation Space is the best starting point.
The series is composed of three books that follow each other in plot, and books such as The Prefect that belong to the same universe but are standalone.
Some people, including Reynolds himself I think, recommend to read the three connected books then the standalones, but I followed the order given by LT:
It mixes the two kind of books and I thought it was great.
Only Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days, which is a standalone consisting of two novellas, was a minor disappointment.
>55 baswood: Thanks!
I hope you like it as much as I did when you get to it.
This novella follows two persons, Ana and Derek, working for a software company. They work on artificial intelligence programs that are a cross between genetic experiments and AI: they have the appearance, in virtual reality, of humanoid animals, and are able to learn and grow. They behave as small kids, knowing very little, at first, but able to learn to talk and to develop through continuous interactions with their owners.
Derek and Ana, along with a small group of other people, end up adopting some of the AI individuals, because they can't stand to have them suspended (i.e., their program would stop running, but they would not be deleted) when the company stops its business. This novella raises very interesting questions about what it means to be a person while at the same time being a bit of software code, that can, at least theoretically, be copied, about what it means to mature and whether the AIs will ever be independent from their owners, what it means to love, what is freedom (are the AI free to do as they choose, when their tastes have been programmed in?).
The relationship between Ana, Derek and their adopted AIs is well described and touching.
Rating: 4 *
>52 chlorine: I was an early fan of Ian MacLeod, loved his first book, The Great Wheel and then The Light Ages and its sequel. I have picked up a nice edition of The Summer Isles and a couple of his collections, one of which contains "Breathmoss." Perhaps, I will one day get to them. Your review was a nice reminder of what great reading is residing on our shelves.
Tor books, or Tor.com has been publishing SF novellas for a while now (and we are inclined to purchase some of them!) There are others publishing novellas in "mainstream' fiction. Melville Press in the US and Quattro Books in Canada come to mind.
*hubby reminds me that PS Publishing in the UK was publishing SF/F novellas long before Tor.com.
Breathmoss was given to me by a friend when I had pneumonia - the French title translates to Green Lung and I don't know if that was a wish for fresh air for my lungs or a comment on their current state. :p
I'm slowly learning to appreciate novellas. Until last year I had hardly read any, but now I like this format. It is a format that is not very present in the publishing world, probably for understandable reasons, though some publishers do stand out. I think ebooks may provide an interesting option for publishing and reading novellas.
I find the overall quality very good. There's only one story I really didn't like, and several I've found great.
Two minor things that occur across different stories have piqued my interest. The first is the variety of ways that these stories, written by different people at different times, envisioned what 2018, or very close periods in time, would be like. Some have some things quite right, others not in an endearing way. One that I really liked envisioned that by 2018 we would have super powerful computers (they would only be Apple products, for some reason) that you can interact with in much easier ways than keyboards and mice - and our music would still be on CDs.
The other thing is that I see a significant part of cold war stuff going on: stories featuring a future that has been devastated by something the communists did.
I'm just noting down here the titles of the ones that I enjoyed most up till now, before it completely slips my mind.
Ripples in the Dirac Sea by Geoffrey Landis
Another Story of a Fisherman of the Inland Sea by Ursula K. Le Guin. Set in her Hainish universe, very beautifully written, introduces us to a world and its social organisation as Le Guin is so good at doing. One man in this world will become a scientist and study a strange phenomenon that seems to allow instantaneous transportation...
Noble Mold by Kage Baker - apparently this introduces her series about The Company - which maintains agents at different places and times and keeps communication with them. In this case the agent is tasked with the recovery of a particular vine plant.
This made me want to read her novels in this series.
Under Siege by George R R Martin. A song of Ice of Fire didn't grab me but boy I discovered here that Martin knows how to write! A man - suffering from many debilitating mutations, as so many in the world he was born into, plagued by nuclear war - participates in an experiment sending people back in time to try and alter the course of history. The catch is he cannot be sent himself - he's in the head of a Finnish officer at the beginning of the 19th century, during the war with Russia. He doesn't control him - rather he can influence his thoughts. This definitely makes me want to read more by Martin.
Oh, all right, I got it out and will start tomorrow........
Reading a few short stories and returning it seems to be a good strategy. It is indeed a monster of a book. I've started it in the beginning of January and am reading the stories one at a time, while reading other books. At the current rate I'm reading it it should stay with me for about six months.
I hope you enjoy it! (IMO you can skip the one by Moorcock if you don't like the beginning. It's the only one I disliked, it's quite long and doesn't get better in the end).
Sorry for increasing your wishlist! ;)
I actually wonder how people here relate to their wishlists vs their TBR vs other things. Years ago I noticed that having a large TBR was not good for me because I was no longer that interested in books I bought long ago. So I worked into reducing it and creating a wishlist instead, with no obligation to read anything from it.
But now my wishlist is getting big, and I don't want to put any book I hear about on it, as sometimes I think I may need to hear of a book from different places to decide whether I'm actually interested in it.
So now I'm considering creating a To-consider collection, from which books would graduate (or not) to my wishlist. Is all hope lost for me? ;)
>66 chlorine: Since there's no way I could get to everything on my list I stopped worrying about it, and just add everything that I think sounds interesting and then if I can't decide what to read next I can browse through it to see if anything appeals. (Or very occasionally use a random number generator to pick something off it when I just want a surprise read.)
>67 .Monkey.: I find ebooks make it easier to have tons of things available without actually buying them. As more and more books I'm interested become available as ebooks, I can buy one of these and start reading almost immediately. For the others I still have to buy them and they will sit in the TBR for some time before I get to them.
>42 chlorine:, The Yoko Ogawa book you mention sounds great. I love atmospheric books that are kind of weird or fantastical but also quiet, if that makes sense.
>58 chlorine:, The Lifecycle of Software Objects sounds so good and similar his story The Great Silence in terms of its consideration about what constitutes life and intelligence.
>73 fannyprice: Thanks for stopping by! :)
Both fantastical and quiet is indeed a good description for the Ogawa.
I haven't read The great Silence yet, but am looking forward to it! Next on my to-read list from Chiang is Exhalation, that I already have on my e-reader.
BTW I also use my wishlist as a reminder for gifts ideas, by tagging a book with the name of the person I think it would be right for. When I was in my bookclub I also tagged books that I think would be interesting bookclub suggestions.
My kindle is my preferred form of reading these days for all of the reasons everyone has listed. I love a paper book, but the kindle pops into my purse, so I’ve always got it for times I’m waiting (doctor’s office, etc.). I can read in bed without the light on, so my hubby can’t complain, and being able to change the font has been life changing.
There was a conversation on Avaland's and Dukedom_Enough's thread about the difficulty of reviewing nonfiction. I'm fully with Avaland here and don't know how to review this.
So let's say this was an eye-opener for me. I'm totally ignorant about the civil-right history in the US (and probably anywhere else, actually). I was therefore totally ignorant about Malcolm X also. So it was really fascinating to learn about his life, his changes of opinions, and to have a glimpse about the era he lived in (I had had unforgivably let myself forget that segregation was a legal thing until so recently).
The book is dense and it sometimes feel like every sentence should deserve instead a whole paragraph, which makes it sometimes a bit hard to read and made me feel like I was missing things - a very good reason to dig deeper into this topic.
The autobiography was not completely finished when he was assassinated. He was aware that his life was threatened and the end of the book is jarring in that he felt he would not live to see the book finished. It ends with these sentences:
And if I can die having brought any light, having exposed any meaningful truth that will help to destroy the racist cancer that is malignant in the body of America - then, all of the credit is due to Allah. Only the mistakes have been mine.
That had me shedding a few tears.
The book ends with a long epilogue by Alex Haley. He was the man Malcolm X told his life story to, and who put the book in order, in close collaboration and with close reviewing by Malcolm X. He tells about the work they did together on the book, as well as of the murder and the events that followed. I found the part where he described his relationship with Malcolm quite interesting, because it shows Malcolm in a different light than the one he uses to describe himself in the main part of the book.
I'm fairly ignorant in the topics broached by this book, so there may be far more relevant books out there to read, but in my state of knowledge I feel like it should be recommended to anybody who hasn't read it yet.
Thanks to kiczdoc, .Monkey. and katiekrug for encouraging me to read it!
La mémoire de Babel by Christelle Dabos
I don't usually pay that much attention to book covers but the ones of these series are so gorgeous I wanted to display them.
This is the third volume in the youth-oriented series La passe miroir (the one who goes through mirrors).
This book still sees Ophélie trying to come to understand how the world became as it is, sundered in different places, or Arches, each ruled by a fantastical being with magical powers, which powers have been passed to some degree to their progeny.
I had not done my research well and I expected this to be the last book of the series. Unfortunately there's a fourth one, and it hasn't even come out yet, and won't for some time, apparently. I don't know if I would have read this book if I had known that.
We learn a little bit more about the world history and the Great Rip, but I felt like not much really happened and that this book was more of a filler than anything else. Moreover, the annoying traits of Ophélie still are there and I sometimes felt quite annoyed at her lack of maturity (though the book is aimed for a much younger audience that I am and the way she sometimes discovers her lack of maturity may be interesting to younger readers).
Luckily, this is a very quick read!
My second Zola read this year - so far I'm making good progress on my long-term goal of reading all the Rougon-Macquart!
The conquest we are speaking of is a political one. The abbot Faujas comes to the town of Plassans, siege of the events of La fortune des Rougon, alone with his mother, with almost no luggage and wearing a much patched cassock. At first much unloved by the good society of the town, in part because of rumours of a disputable past, he will little by little gain in status and in influence on everybody, from the legitimists supporting the return of monarchy to the supporters of the current emperor (we don't hear much about the republicans in this book as it is focused on the bourgeois and noble society).
Faujas and his mother rent a floor of the house of the Mouret family - François Mouret and Marthe Rougon, his cousin and wife. They are both unreligious but, as time goes by, conversations with the abbot will come to alter Marthe.
I loved the first part, consisting of the intrigues of Faujas to come quietly into consideration by the public figures of the town, with very clever manipulations. This part represents approximately two-thirds of the book. However, I did not quite like the later part. I thought that what happens to Mouret was too over the top to be believable
Finally, I thought one aspect of the ending to be grotesque, which surprised me a lot in a Zola.
Despite a somewhat weaker ending this was a very enjoyable book. Next on my list is the next one by publishing order, La faute de l'abbé Mouret (this abbot is the son of the François Mouret of this book). I've tried to read it many years ago and couldn't finish, so I'll try to read it quickly to get that behind me. After that I'll switch to the recommended reading order.
Rating: 3.5 *
If anybody has books on these topics to recommend, please chime in!
I started with a re-read of a book that was given a long time ago and that I found great at the time, if somewhat hard to put into practice:
Heureux qui communique (Happy the One who communicates) by Jacques Salomé
(the title is a word play on the phrase Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage, which is the first line of a famous French poem).
Well... Salomé has probably a lot of very interesting things to say, and this book brings some interesting insight, but I can't help but think that the author failed in the exercise of writing this book. It's not clear IMO who this book is for, or in what context it should be read (a blurb at the end says it was written as a companion to video tapes - does the book stand its ground as a standalone?).
There are lots of interesting ideas, like speaking about oneself rather than the other, being responsible for one's end of the relationship, make the difference between what one feels and what has been said, but without examples (or very minimalist examples), it's hard for me to see how to put this in practice. For instance in the context of someone constantly criticising me, how would I be able to say something about me to this person without it being a "You always criticise me" in disguise?
The book is very short, maybe too short as more examples would have been welcome. There are a lot of drawings in comics style, illustrating people communicating in different ways, but it's not clear what their purpose is. Sometimes they seem to be illustrative, sometimes they seem to bring content on their own, and sometimes they seem to be humorous. The overall effect is confusing. Some of the text is also very obscure (I couldn't really understand the definition of communication, for instance).
Rating: 3* (read it if you're interested, but I would not recommend it as there are better books to read IMO).
Next on my list on this topic is Nonviolent communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg. From what I've read about nonviolent communication, Rosenberg's approach seems very complementary to the mindfulness practice I keep, which should make it very relevant for me.
Interestingly, I read yesterday a chapter in Full catastrophe living, which is about mindfulness, about how to deal with people, which does show that mindfulness is a great tool for helping in dealing with people.
Sorry for the long post!
One of my old colleagues who became a department head told me that he just had one guiding principle - "Whenever I'm in a difficult situation with one of my staff, I ask myself 'What would X do?' and do the opposite. It never fails." (X being a former manager we both knew well.)
I don't know if that is universally applicable, but most people must have had an "X" in their lives somewhere.
Good luck with your new responsibilities (and congratulations if the change denotes some kind of promotion...)
As another scientist without special "training in people skills", and yet with a fairly long career by now, I wish I could be helpful. But I'm afraid I share thorold's cynicism about the effectiveness of that whole industry of management coaching and similar (frankly, my thoughts on those parasites would probably earn me a lifetime spot in a "people skills" study mill).
Good advice is to be had--the trouble is that no one can know where it may be found for anyone else. But we can have some notions. Again I agree with thorold--reading fiction, studying good books, can enrich and develop our knowledge of human psychology and behaviour immensely. I know it may seem counterintuitive, not to mention slow and roundabout, but, never stop reading big novels.
As to pressing, daily, practical problems--what exactly is changing for you? Are you having new types of contacts with people, or is it just that the number of people with whom you are expected to communicate has increased?
For instance in the context of someone constantly criticising me, how would I be able to say something about me to this person without it being a "You always criticise me" in disguise?
I don't think I'd want to disguise anything--I'd try to discuss the problem as openly as possible. But don't begin with anything that is formulated as or sounds like an accusation. Rather, pose it as a problem to solve in the interest of everyone. Use an opening such as "I wonder if you have noticed but you seem to do X whenever" etc. Have examples handy, explain your point of view, and ask a lot of questions, ask for their input, advice--what do YOU think, what can WE do etc.
I haven't met with much hostility of the kind that would preclude ANY negotiation and attempt at achieving some harmony in working conditions. It's simply not something that's in the interest of most people most of the time--at least not in research labs, in my experience.
>81 chlorine: Mouret's actions may seem over the top, but I think that they need to be to make the real fear of madness which is present in the next generation descended from the Macquart side more understandable. Having said that, the ones who seem most affected by it are descendants of Antoine Macquart, not Ursule Macquart, the mother of François. I read La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret fairly recently in translation, and I remember you helped me with faute. I'm looking forward to your comments on the book.
Congratulations on your new responsibilities.
Here are some articles that I've found over time that I think contain useful tidbits. Not all of them are ground-breaking and some bits of advice are just silly, but for me at least, these articles had more to recommend than most business lit.
5 Ways to Give Feedback That Inspires People to Grow, Not Shrink
5 ways 'superbosses' set themselves apart from average leaders
7 Phrases That Will Undermine Your Leadership - Despite the click-bait title, some good advice about how words bolster or undermine your authority. I do have a gripe with #1 in the list, though. I think it's always better to admit when you don't know something. The phrase I have seen work well is "I don't know, but I'll get you that information." Seems obvious, but it is shocking how often people would rather stumble through and look like idiots.
The Leadership Behavior That’s Most Important to Employees -- This article starts out like a lecture on how being civil is important (obviously), but contains some good practices on how to solicit feedback from your employees and peers about your behavior & how to grow as a manager. Harvard Business Review (HBR) has great articles, you can usually read three a month for free.
30 Simple Habits To Help You Work Well With Others
The 5 Dynamics of Low Performing Teams -- Create a high-performing team by avoiding these dynamics
20 cognitive biases that screw up your decisions - Helpful for getting out of your own head.
I'm not sure if it is available outside the US, but I have found the website/app "Flipboard" to be pretty useful for discovering articles on leadership/management/organizational culture. Basically, you sign up for an account and then you can choose to follow "magazines" on specific topics. You can also create your own magazines to save articles of interest. I have also been able to skirt the HBR three-article a month limit using Flipboard. :)
Thank you all for the nice words and the advice!
To answer your questions: this is a kind of promotion, though it doesn't imply any raise in salary (my salary as a public servant (fonctionnaire) is purely dictated by my rank and how long I've been in service - there are very few ranks and you get to the next one by some kind of competitive exam). The promotion aspect lies in the recognition by the peers of my abilities, which does indeed feel very good! This promotion no doubt comes partly from my research skill, but I think I was also asked because I have at least some people skills.
What will change and the role of managers: in the lab there are two kind of people: researchers (most of them do also teach half-time at the university), and technical and administrative staff. The head of a lab has two roles. The research people are mostly self-organised, work at their own rhythm and on the topics they choose to. We don't therefore have a boss in the usual sense. The head here is in charge of creating or encouraging opportunities, for instance for new collaborations, or for writing grant proposals for funding for interesting projects, and to help disseminate the works done in the lab to augment the lab's prestige. This is a part I'm at ease in. The other role is to act as a manager for the administrative and technical staff, which is a section of the lab that works much more like a regular company, with bosses and hierarchy which do not exist in the research staff. So this aspect will be new to me. And Mark, I've never previously had a boss or manager in the conventional sense (and still won't), so I don't have any bad or good ones to use as guides or anti-guides! ;)
I've noted the scepticism of many of you towards communication books - I promise I won't gorge myself on them then. I still do believe that some advice can be useful - not that reading a book would make anybody better at communication right away, but keeping good advice in mind and trying to be aware of it and putting it in practice day by day may help, IMO. I'll still read Nonviolent communication because I'm really interested in it, and I'll let y'all know what I though.
Thanks also Kris for the articles, I'll also go and read them!
Finally, the advice to read fiction for this goal is terrific, but let's face it, I don't think there would have been a risk of me stopping reading fiction, new job or not! :)
I'll echo what others have said, that being a natural manager can't be taught. But two things: first, you strike me as someone who probably has the people skills to pull this off, even if you need to think it through before January because you've never done it before, and second, even if it's not natural to you, certain techniques can make life a lot easier as a boss.
When I was a supervisor/manager, I tried to always be aware of how employees were reacting to what I was saying.
If I was trying to be supportive but they seemed to pull away, I'd try something different. If I was trying to be gentle but they obviously didn't take the hint at the point I was making, I'd get more blunt and forceful. It's really a matter of being sure you're getting the response you want from them: interactions might not go the way you'd planned, but the result will more likely be the one you wanted.
Something I learned in library school: give people space to organize themselves for the tasks they have. Once you've given them the goal, some guidelines, and the criteria for success, they'll do better if you're not looking over their shoulder but just available. Of course, you have to observe that they really are getting on with things, and successfully, but they may have their own way of doing things that will work just as well whatever task-by-task supervision you might want to offer. In other words, give them some room and they'll have a stake in finding a successful way to do things.
In the context of someone constantly criticising me, how would I be able to say something about me to this person without it being a "You always criticise me" in disguise? This can be difficult to think out because of the feelings you might have at that moment, but while you may need to be honest about their criticism, it helps to word things so they are about oneself, not the other person. For instance, "I feel very criticized with you saying that", not "you're always criticizing me". It makes YOU the active person in the sentence and feels much less of an accusation, and it gives them a chance to reword, if they care to. It's still clear that you are indeed talking about their criticism, but it takes out the sting.
Admit when you're wrong or don't know the answer. It makes the rest of your input to people more trustworthy. Also, don't overreact negatively unless it's really, really important. If you're relaxed and understanding most of the time and show anger or disappointment only when things are particularly bad, that voice, different than usual, will make an impression. People who are always in an uproar (e.g., watch the evening news here anytime) never sound reasonable and people hear everything they say at the same level of importance, so when something really is important, it doesn't register. (This works with kids, too....)
I really think the most important of these is the first: watch to see you're getting the reactions you're going for and be willing to change your approach when necessary.
Morwenna, 15 years old and Welsh, meets her dad whom she had never seen before, after some catastrophic event that required her to flee, and during which her twin sister, whom we briefly meet at the beginning of the novel, has died. Her father's sisters quickly send her to a boarding school to get rid of her, because she doesn't fit in their (English) world.
This is the end of the seventies and the novel is told as Morwenna's diary. She is a 15 year-old trying to fit in and grieve for the loss of her sister at the same time. In this way this is a coming of age novel. She has a lame leg, because of something that happened during the events of which we do not know much. Also, she can kind of do magic. She and her sister could see the fairies that lived in the industrial ruins near their home, and the fairies taught them how to do some magic. The book opened with the two sisters dumping a flower into a pool near a factory, which turned out to cause the factory to shut down.
The way the magic works in this book is really well thought of: the rituals only make events happen through a plausible chain of circumstances, and the sceptic can always say that magic had nothing to do with it and that the events would have happened anyway. This is the best part of the novel IMO. Morwenna reads _a lot_ of science-fiction and at least a third of her diary is devoted to that, which is fun but was maybe a bit too much. My main disappointment with this book is that the story feels thin. If this was supposed to be an atmospheric book maybe this was wanted, but then I think the end doesn't fit with that goal (
Rating: 3* (not bad, but not good enough for me to advise people to read it)
This book is subtitled Using the body and mind to face stress, pain and illness and the title does not intend to say that living is a catastrophe, but that life is complicated, full of very different things, some good, some bad, and that we should be prepared to deal mindfully with whatever comes up.
This is a book about the mindfulness meditation practice. It presents what mindfulness is about, then presents the eight-week program that Kabat-Zinn set up in the stress reduction clinic he created. The reader is invited to follow the program. Kabat-Zinn also presents briefly the scientific studies about mindfulness, and how they show that mindfulness can be useful in many cases, for getting better from diseases or mental problems in particular. Then a large part is dedicated to how to use mindfulness in our daily lives to deal with the full catastrophe of life: how to address work stress, people stress, sleep stress, illness, pain, and so on.
As a book I tought it was not so well written: I think I speak English quite fluently but many sentences seemed so convoluted I had trouble understanding them. As a guide to beginning a mindfulness practice I though it was not very practical: if I remember correctly you have to read almost 200 pages (out of more than 600) to actually learn what are the exact instructions. For this purpose i would rather recommend Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, which though not perfect makes it more easy IMO (it also asks for approximately only 20 minutes per day of practice while the Kabat-Zinn books asks for 45 minutes, which is daunting for me).
The science part was very fast because there was much to say in a short length, so it felt rushed to me, and sometimes it had a feeling as if Kabat-Zinn wanted me to believe what he said rather than arguing it by detailing the studies (but I did believe him nonetheless!)
All the negative points having been said, I really appreciated the part about the different aspects of life that mindfulness can help with. I had originally purchased it because I was interested to learn what it had to say about how to deal with headaches, of which I have some; in the end I am thrilled about the parts that encourage us to be mindful of our interactions with people, of work, of food, of our time management.
I am more motivated than ever to keep up with my practice (I've started a year and a half ago) and really believe that the positive effects that I feel (very significant reduction of anxiety) will extend to other aspects of my life with time, and I'm looking forwards to see what that will be.
Then my headaches usually originate from a shoulder and neck pain, and since I've read the book I feel like I'm often conscious that my shoulders are scrunched up and I loosen them for a while (this is actual rather annoying as I have the impression that I spend my whole day realising my shoulders are scrunched up and unscrunching them ;)
Then my headaches are linked to my hormonal cycle so the worst ones happen once a month. So I've not have an occasion to have many of them. ;)
This being said, I have the feeling that they're better than before, but that can be a wrong impression, I need a few more months to tell.If true, it can be linked to the change of diet. Anyway, the book also focuses on how to live better with whatever problems you're facing even if the problem doesn't get better, so I'd definitely say it's worth a try.
This is the second book in the series started with Soulless.
Alexia is still involved in investigating things linked with the paranormal creatures, vampires and werewolves. One night, all paranormal creatures in a part of London are changed back to humans. Is this an epidemic? A weapon?
Like the first one, this book is badly in need of an editor, both for the original text (how can you see a device consists of two separate chambers if said device is covered by a cloth?) and for the French version (the French word for paranoid is paranoïaque and certainly not paranoïde). This being said, this book, like the first one, is a very fun read. The book happens in the victorian era and the heroin is very concerned about good manners, and the parts in which she will for instance worry about not having been properly introduced to a gentleman before hitting him with her umbrella because he's attacking her are well done.
The book is also full of witty lines. It is much less racy than the first one. As I was surprised to like the racy parts in the first book, I still don't know if I'm disappointed or not that they're much less present, and much less detailed. ;)
Whereas the first book was self-contained, this one ends with a huge cliff-hanger.
A chum and I booked yesterday to go and see the comedienne turned psychology guru Ruby Wax on tour next month talking about her book A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled. Quite looking forward to it as Wax is very amusing and sharp as a tack, so I'm hoping it kick starts me into finally "getting" mindfulness.
Glad you found my review at least somewhat interesting.
As for trying it out, my personal impression is that people get to it at the right time for them. I had known about it for some time before deciding to try it, then tried it and stopped after less than two weeks, then tried it sometimes later and stopped again. Finally I went back to it one day where I had a very strong panic attack and felt I needed any help I could use. What really helped also is that my psychiatrist really encouraged me to keep going. She raved about the benefits and said that any amount of time was better than nothing, so that I should drop out of any method if I felt it was too constraining but practice by myself or with youtube videos for shorter amount of times, because what's important is practicing every day.
What a strange book.
It begins with a man observing another one, Etienne, as he goes to a silhouette (representing the fact that he does not really live as a person but merely carries out routinely the actions of his life, going from home to work and back again, always in the same way) to a three dimensional person. As he undergoes these changes, Etienne thinks more and more about the meaning of life.
The style is characteristic of the Oulipo gathering, with lots of stylistic changes, phonetically written sentences (of the kind of which we see in Zazie dans le métro by the same author), some absurd elements, and lots of puns (one I liked a lot was a character: l'abbé Leslaine - sorry for non French readers!).
I found the first part interesting, but the rest of the story dragged on IMO, and the ending really made it seem as if Queneau did not know how to finish his book.
I've added The Lifecycle of Software Objects to my wishlist: it sounds fascinating.
I hope you enjoy The lifecycle of software objects when you get to it!
The railsea is an incredible tangle of rails, going back and forth on themselves, covering the flat land of this world. The earth beneath the railsea is inhabited by digger animals - worms, moles, etc. - that are huge and dangerous to man. Hence the only way to navigate the railsea is on trains, that have to do some intricate navigation to find the correct junctions to where they want to go.
Sham ap Soorap embarks on a moler - a train dedicated to chasing the great souther moles - as a doctor apprentice. The captain is obsessed by a great white mole who ate her arm in a previous encounter. But Sham doesn't want to be a doctor. His only dream is finding salvage, fantastic devices dating from a past long forgotten, or even coming from outside of the planet.
The reference to Moby Dick is obvious, and the fact that I thoroughly disliked Moby Dick may be one of the reasons I was not engrossed in this book. It is fun and reads quickly, but does not compare IMO to the other Miéville books I've read and was wowed by: The City & the City and the Perdido Street Station trilogy. I found the ending unconvincing. Kudos though for the balance role between male and female characters, and the names of the characters which are difficult to remember but participate highly to the atmosphere.
I'm still enjoying it and am very pleasantly surprised by the variety in the stories. Time travel is done in many means, accidental or voluntary, and has lots of different consequences.
The notable stories I've read since my first post are:
- On the Watchtower at Plataea, by Garry Kilworth: a band of time travellers sent by their government is stuck in the classical greek era and can go no further back. They are asked to stay here and observe the Spartan assaulting Plataea while trying to understand why they're stuck. Very original and well written.
- A night on the Barbary Coast, by Kage Baker. This is the second story by Baker in this collection, and it highly deserves its space. It's still set in the Company universe.
- The clock that went Backward, by Edward Page Mitchell.
- Is there anybody there, by Kim Newman. A medium from the 19th century encounters during a seance a spirit unlike any other she's met. Strangely, he's speaking in what we know as l33t speech.
- The lost pilgrim, by Gene Wolfe. The main character is sent back in time but the process makes him confused and he forgets the details of what he's supposed to do. He knows for sure he's supposed to board a boat, but which one? He agrees to go on Eeasawn's boat (he has trouble pronouncing the names of the locals, can you guess who this is? ;) Adventures follow, and the end is memorable.
- Lost Continent, by Greg Egan, is about a refugee fleeing his time period, ravaged by war, and ending up in a refugee camp in the future. Very relevant.
- The Mouse ran Down, by Adrian Tchaikovsky, is about a world in which some catastrophic things have happened to time, and a group of people is trying to survive by going from time to time.
- Come-from-aways, by Tony Pi. A strange ship enters St-John's harbour in Newfoundland. Could this be the legendary Welsh prince Madoc, who disappeared in the 12th century after setting sail for a rich land to the west?
I was surprised to read a story by a French author I'd never heard of: George-Olivier Châteaureynaud. This story, The Gulf of the Years, is somewhat haunting. I liked it but I did not feel compelled to search out Châteaureynaud's other work.
>113 chlorine: Interesting to see a Garry Kilworth story there amongst your favourites. I read a time travel story by him called Let's Go to Golgotha many years ago and the story itself had always stuck with me, though it was only recently I managed to discover the title and author of the story online. I'm not sure if I've read anything else by him. I really need to get to The Time Traveller's Almanac, just reading a few stories at a time.
Concerning Miéville, the two I've liked are completely different so I really wouldn't know which one to recommend.
>113 chlorine: All good to know. I just unearthed our copy in a pile of books in the husband's office.
>117 markon: I know how you feel about having too much to read. It's still better than the other way round! Thanks for the rec for Embassytown! It seems to receive lots of good opinions.
A short book. Society has radically evolved (due to great technological enhancements that allow everyone to have their basic eating, housing and clothing needs met) and money has disappeared. In its place is Whuffie, which is a reputation score. It is earned by gaining credit through face to face interactions, and allows to "buy" some privileges, like driving cars, eating in nice restaurants, having a nice home, etc.
Jules works at Disneyland and works among a group maintaining the Haunted Mansion, a very famous ride much beloved by its fans. However there seem to be competiting people who whould like to take control of the Mansion and radically renovate it, using modern technologies.
The premise of this novel is fun but it did not quite work for me. The main reason is that for some reason the book was hard for me to read: though the plot was always clear I struggled at many points to understand what specific sentences meant (and, being lazy, I often skimmed over these sentences). This comes probably from a mix of somewhat unclear language and my non-nativeness in English. Also, I wasn't captivated by the story. I almost dropped the book at some point but kept on, as it's very short. There's a quirk at the end that I liked very much, but all in all I feel like I could have dispensed with this book.
Nonviolent communication: A language for life by Marshall Rosenberg
A very interesting book. I really want to try and integrate what Rosenberg advises into my daily life, and I'm looking forward to see how that will turn out (but that is a long term project as it's something that requires a lot of practice and getting used to, so it's not as if I was able to start right away and immediately see the benefits).
The main idea in this book is that we have some needs and when these needs are met or not met, this gives rise to feelings within ourselves. In particular it is important to recognise that our feelings are not a direct consequence of other people's actions or things that happen to us: e.g., depending on what your needs are (a need for quiet for instance, or a need for respect of their own effort to be on time), you will be pleased or displeased by a person being late for an appointment.
This is something I fully agree with and that is completely consistent with what I learned about cognitive therapy. According to Rosenberg, it's also important to express
ourselves by talking about our needs or feelings rather than emit judgement (either positive or negative) on other persons. This also makes a lot of sense to me.
I'm not sure I agree with Rosenberg on what is a need, though. To me a need is defined by the fact that you die if you don't get it, and a "need for quiet" most certainly doesn't satisfy this criteria. However this is a minor quibble as Rosenberg doesn't place any stress on the word need and I think it could be easily replaced with another, less strong word.
I was much less on par with Rosenberg on the subject of the relationship between feelings and needs. Reading the book, you easily get the impression that feelings are completely rational: all feelings are supposed to be triggered by a need, either met (for positive feelings) or unmet (for negative ones). I think it's really important to try to recognise the link between needs and feelings, but I'm far from sure that the link is always a causal one. IMO some feelings are irrational in the sense that they don't come from a need met or unmet, or do come out of it but without any sense of proportions (for instance I'm prone to anxiety attacks and while I can relate them with a need of quiet and security, I strongly think that they tend to come on their own and will seize any little thing to create anxiety).
On the negative side, I would also have liked to Rosenberg to adress how to behave with someone who is lying to our face, or someone who has repeatedly cheated us in the past.
These are minor complaints about a book that really left a strong, positive impression. The part that impressed me the most is the one about empathy. Rosenberg's definition of empathy doesn't correspond to what I thought empathy was. According to him, empathy is just about hearing, receiving, the feelings and needs of the other person. It is not about feeling these feelings or consoling the person. According to Rosenberg, we tend to be too quick to try and console someone, when, most often, what this person needs is for their feelings to be heard just as they are.
Giving empathy to people requires correctly identifying and hearing their needs or feelings, which is not always easy even when they are expressed clearly, because we are in general prompt to hear blame or accusation in other people's words. It is even less easy when the people in question have not been trained in nonviolent communication (which is most people :) and do not express them directly. You then have to listen to what the other person is saying and ry to guess the underlying feelings and needs - Rosenberg encourages us to reflect what we guessed to the other person, to have them confirm that we heard right, or if we should try again. According to him, hearing one's own feelings and needs correctly expressed has a great benefic effect on anybody.
This guessing leads to some dialogue that seems a little farcical to me, in which the nonviolent communicator seems to be paraphrasing what the other is saying, such as:
I (this is Rosenberg speaking in the book) was presenting Nonviolent Communication to about 170 Palestinian Muslim men in a mosque at Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem.
Attitudes toward Americans at that time were not favorable. As I was speaking, I suddenly noticed a wave of muffled commotion fluttering through the audience. “They’re whispering that you are American!” my translator alerted me, just as a gentleman in the audience leapt to his feet. Facing me squarely, he hollered at the top of his lungs, “Murderer!” Immediately a dozen other voices joined him in chorus: “Assassin!” “Child-killer!” “Murderer!”
Fortunately, I was able to focus my attention on what the man was feeling and needing. In this case, I had some cues. On the way into the refugee camp, I had seen several empty tear gas canisters that had been shot into the camp the night before. Clearly marked on each canister were the words Made in U.S.A. I knew that the refugees harbored a lot of anger toward the United States for supplying tear gas and other weapons to Israel.
I addressed the man who had called me a murderer:
MBR: Are you angry because you would like my government to use its resources differently? (I didn’t know whether my guess was correct—what was critical was my sincere effort to connect with his feeling and need.)
Man: Damn right I’m angry! You think we need tear gas? We need sewers, not your tear gas! We need housing! We need to have our own country!
MBR: So you’re furious and would appreciate some support in improving your living conditions and gaining political independence?
Man: Do you know what it’s like to live here for twenty-seven years the way I have with my family—children and all? Have you got the faintest idea what that’s been like for us?
MBR: Sounds like you’re feeling very desperate and you’re wondering whether I or anybody else can really understand what it’s like to be living under these conditions. Am I hearing you right?
Man: You want to understand? Tell me, do you have children? Do they go to school? Do they have playgrounds? My son is sick! He plays in open sewage! His classroom has no books! Have you seen a school that has no books?
MBR: I hear how painful it is for you to raise your children here; you’d like me to know that what you want is what all parents want for their children—a good education, opportunity to play and grow in a healthy environment …
Man: That’s right, the basics! Human rights—isn’t that what you Americans call it? Why don’t more of you come here and see what kind of human rights you’re bringing here!
MBR: You’d like more Americans to be aware of the enormity of the suffering here and to look more deeply at the consequences of our political actions?
According to Rosenberg, this works, and even though, as I said, this seems a very strange way of communicating, I really want to try it out, even though I find it hard: I've been trying since I've finished the book (a bit less than two weeks), and I find it hard most times to identify a need, or I feel too shy to actually go out and say it because it feels so strange - but in one case identifying the feeling and need in my head helped me to relate slightly differently, and, I believe, slightly better, with a colleague, so I have high hopes.
Finally, going further with empathy, Rosenberg suggests that if you ever decide to intervene in an aggression, you should empathise with the agressor, because this is what will allow them to wind down, after which it will be possible to try and find with them other ways to satisfy their needs than violence.
I didn't have a chance to test this but the idea really strikes something with me - I think it's perfectly brilliant.
To me it is as brilliant as the scene in Belle du Seigneur in which Solal seduces Ariane and tells her that he's seducing her and reveals how he does it - and it works: even though the manipulation is exposed it works because it is so perfectly crafted that I as a reader was falling in love with Solal as I read. This resonates in my mind with some situations I've been faced with in which honesty was the best (as far as I could tell) manipulation strategy: I have found myself in negociations at work in which there was a result I really wanted to obtain and after thinking about how to get it I came to the conclusion that being honest about why I wanted it was the best way to get it (it must seem a little fuzzy, I'm sorry I can't think of an example).
I still haven't figured out if this makes me a totally cynic manipulator or an honest person. ;)
I don't want to imply that this book is about manipulation - Rosenberg is very clear throughout the book that nonviolent communication only works if you're honest in your desire to connect with other people. He also says that this not about getting the outcome you want, or reaching compromises, but finding ways for everyone to have their needs satisfied.
This leaves me with an avenue of things to think about.
There are other things that I found really interesting and inspiring in this book but I won't go into all the details - this review is already much longer than what I'm comfortable with. I'll just mention the fact that, according to Rosenberg, using words such as "I can't" or "I have to" imply a denial of responsability.
Indeed there are very few things that we absolutely have to do (breathing would be among them), and according to Rosenberg the reality of the situation
is that we choose to do something because we don't want to face the consequences of doing otherwise. This has nothing to do with the validity of the choice or the enormity or not of the consequences, but I think it's interesting to identify the fact that we choose to conform - the fact that many people felt
that they had to do things led to disastrous consequences during WWII.
(read in French, translated from Spanish)
This is a re-read. The premise of this book is that, in some future, post-catastrophe society, some knowledge has been lost and what is considered as the Bible by the people of the time is actually some other book that has been swapped in its place. The author then explores how this can shape society. Believe me, the god of this book is not a god of love.
The idea is quite fun and the author paints a world with many reference to this bible without actually saying which book it is. This happens together with a fast paced story in which a group of people is trying to find the key to the abyss, an object of enormous religious significance, while fighting off the efforts of another group to get to it.
The book is not very well written or translated (I suspect it's a little bit of both), and uses what I consider as a cheap trick to maintain suspense (not telling the reader all of what a character witnesses: for instance, we know a killer will enter the room but don't know who the killer is, then the other character tenses when she hears the door open, but when she sees who this is she relaxes and says "oh, hi!" and bam! end of chapter and we follow some other characters for a while).
Despite this this was a fun and fast book to read. I enjoyed going through it knowing in advance what book has taken the place of the bible (
Telle me about it! I'd like to read more Somoza, but as long as his books are translated by the same person, I don't think I will. And since they've apparently become friends and he's on record as saying that he thinks she does a good job, I think we're stuck with her! If more of his work gets translated into English, I might switch to English: that's how desperate I am. I really enjoyed La Dame n°13 (La dama número trece), and so bought La théorie des cordes (Zig Zag - that one is translated into English). The writing was excruciatingly bad. I slogged on to the end however, because it was a bit of a page-turner and I was sucked into the story, despite its flaws (and the stilted, at times ungrammatical, French). I reached the end of my tether with La caverne des idées (The Athenian Murders/La caverna de las ideas) and gave up a third of the way through. I've looked through a couple of other books (from other authors) translated by the same translator, and the writing is not any better.
La caverne des idées was actually the first Somoza I read and I loved it, and did not notice anything wrong with the writing. I then read La theories cordes which I enjoyed a lot (it is a page turner indeed!) but noticed the writing was off.
I did not enjoy Clara et la pénombre.
I'd be really interested to know what you think if you do read him in English!
(random note: for some reason I find it very difficult to pronounce the title differently than: Nothing to enthy)
Barbara Demick was stationed as a journalist in South Korea, and documented about North Korea by travelling there (which did not bring much insight because the trips were completely controlled by the regime) and by interviewing at length North Korean escapees who came to South Korea.
She does a very good job of describing how strongly brainwashing from childhood on can influence people, and what living in an oppressive regime can be like. The book is heart-rending as a large part of it is devoted to the terrible famine of the mid-1990s. The title, Nothing to envy, comes from a patriotic song telling how North Koreans are a great nation and have nothing to envy from other countries. Mi-Ran, one of the six interviewees, was a school teacher in North Korea and sang this song to her pupils, while they were slowly starving to death around her.
It was also very interesting to read how it can be difficult for North Koreans who have escaped to the South to adapt to their new lives.
The fact that the book is centered around the lives of six people from North Korea is a very good idea: the fact that it consists of personal story makes it compelling to read and helps the reader to relate to the feelings of the people involved, and succeeds much better IMO in giving a good insight on what living in North Korea may be like than a more impersonal book may have done.
Edited to remove the bold font, sorry about the shouting!
Oh you've read it already! I'm glad to see you found it interesting.
I'll go and post my review on the dedicated RG thread!
This was a chore to finish. I liked the beginning, which has some magical realism elements in the style that I liked so much in 1Q84. However, this story seems to be going nowhere and I lost interest at the middle, and wanted to quit when I had only less than a hundred pages left. The only reason I didn't quit was that I take the Goodreads challenge to read 50 books a year, and since I had so few pages left I completed it for the challenge's sake. Which is admittedly not a good reason to finish this book, maybe I should drop this challenge.
Rating: 2 1/2 * (for the beginning).
Carole Martinez has a knack of writing magnificent books out of premises that seem completely inane to me. Here Blanche, who died at 12 during the middle-ages, but became some kind of spirit, is in contact with some younger version of herself (probably another, younger ghost?). Both voices, the old soul and the young girl, tell Blanche's story.
This premise opens the way to absolutely superb, poetical, writing, and Blanche, with her defaults and doubts, her rage at being just a girl in a society that do not open anything for her, is a very moving character.
This is highly evocative of Martinez's former book, Du domaine des murmures, that I had also loved.
Rating: 4.5 *
(read in French. Original title: So happy it hurst)
This is the diary of Ottila. The book is evocative of Bridget Jones' diary because of the diary format, of course, but also because among Otilla's problems is the fact that she is sleeping with her boss and can't seem to stop, though she finds it unhealthy. There is also a similitude in the style, in that the protagonists do not take themselves seriously. Ottila's life is way trashier than Bridget's, though. Her main problem, and her motivation for starting this diary (which is some kind of scrapbook project done by mutilating a stolen copy of a book called The little book of Happiness - hence the French title which means The fucking huge book of happiness which will rock everything) is stopping drinking. She has a huge alcohol problem and the descriptions of her former drinking bouts are impressive. Some of her family members also have issues of their own - more so than what we imagine at the beginning of the book, and the progressive exposition of these problems and the dynamics that are at play in the family is very interesting.
My only complaint is that the ending feels a bit rushed, as if the author had magically tried to bring about the ending she had in mind. All in all this was a fun, somewhat trashy and endearing book.
Rating: 3 1/2 *
This book has been reviewed numerous time here. The book begins with the ending scene: the nanny has killed the children. Then it rewinds, and goes back to the time at which the parents decide to hire the nanny. When they find Louise, they get the feeling that they have found the rare gem. Then we follow the whole story, from start to finish, with in mind the question: "What went wrong?"
I find this premise really interesting, but after finishing the book I'm a little confused about what's the author's intention. Is it that knowing the end in advance helps us see the little signals indicating that something was wrong, and which escaped the parents (who tended to forget that Louise was a human being before being a nanny)? Or is the goal to help us understand Louise? The book is a bit of both these things, and neither: seeing the scenes from outside does allow us to observe some pretty oblivious behaviour from the parents' part, which make the reader cringe (such as the way in which they behave when they take Louise with them on their vacations). We also do get some insight on Louise, things that are shown to us that the parents could not have seen - but too few in my opinion, and she does remain something of a mystery after finishing the book.
In the end this was an interesting read, but I'm somewhat puzzled. I think if it had gone more fully in either direction it could have been more potent - but I'm probably in the minority in thinking that as it has been highly praised, and has received the prestigious Prix Goncourt. I'm going to read your reviews about this book again.
>132 chlorine: I've not yet read any Murakami but I'm glad to see you mention liking 1Q84 since that's the one I've got on my shelf from a SantaThing a couple of years ago. I do want to read it but the book is so massive that I've found it too daunting to actually get started on so far.
I was going to say that 1Q84 reads relatively quickly compared to its length, but I went and checked my reading log and I didn't read it that fast. I did however get very quickly drawn in so maybe you should start it and see how it goes, and be ready to ditch it if you're not hooked up quickly.
From what I understand this is the author's last book and it was published after his death. Which may partly explain the trouble I had with this book at the beginning: I read it in English and while I immediately felt there really was something in there, I had a _really_ hard time understanding what many sentences meant. That is of course at least partly due to the fact that I'm not a native speaker and even less familiar with the setting of this book (which takes place, according to the author, in Pensyltucky). But still, I hadn't struggled with a book so much for a _long_ time.
This being said, I thought the book was very cool, in a wild sort of way. There is a mute Amish boy, his father who is a notorious drunk but also a minister in the Amish community, a journalist who returned to his home town for his love of boxing - and werewolves. It's hard to describe this book but there was something brilliant in the style, the setting, and the far-fetched situations that can be at the same time seedy and outrageously funny (I'm lacking words to describe what I mean - for the French undestanding crowd here the main adjective I would like to use to describe this book is déjanté - the LT recommendations associated to this book include a book by Chuck Palahniuk which seems fitting; they also include some French book that I can't associate with it but which seem to imply that this author has found more success in France than in the US).
I felt that the plot was not perfect, with some scenes lacking resolution, but this was still a very unexpectedly pleasant read.
Tristan Egolf has written three books. I had heard about him through Lord of the Barnyard, which was widely read on the French website I was visiting some years ago, but seems to have found little echo here, and which I still haven't read. I've read Skirt and the Fiddle which had its great moments but was somewhat disappointing to me. As Lord of the Barnyard seems to be his most liked book, I'm looking forwards to getting to it!
I came across this book by reading the comments from someone here on CR.
This happens after the end of WWII and the narrator is a doctor tending to an aristocratic family. They own a manor which is one of the book's characters because it has so much personality, but they have little money left and live in isolation, with a single maid compared to the numerous staff of the days of glory of the manor, which is now falling in disrepair.
Little by little the doctor becomes more intimate with the family and its personal demons, and strange phenomena begin to happen in the manor. Could it be that it is haunted, or is there a rational explanation?
I thought this book was very well-written and engaging. Some parts are a little bit scary, and at some point I wondered whether it was a good idea to read it at night before going to bed, but it was not very scary. The book was described here as "atmospheric" and I think this is an apt description. Recommended.
>145 valkyrdeath: Do you have recommendations for haunted house stories?
>146 janemarieprice: I see you've read and enjoyed at least another book by Waters. I had never heard of her before, but she seems like an interesting author.
Also, how cool is it that you had reading time in class? We had a library in my classes from which we could borrow, but I don't think we had reading time during classes, except for texts assigned by the teacher.
This is a short story collection. The stories are quiet, with a very simple but engaging style. Some of them have some fantastical aspects, but with a very light touch, just as in Cristallisation secrète which I read earlier this year. They create a strong and captivating atmosphere, with somewhat strange characters that are at the same time a bit alien and a bit endearing.
I'll be glad to read other works by Ogawa.
Rating: 3 1/2 *
Ugh. I'm usually a fan of Zola but this just didn't work for me. I had tried to read it when I was oh so much younger and had given up on it, so I had apprehensions about this book. Well, I don't know if this was a self prophecy or not, but I really did not like it.
The beginning was nice, but then, approximately a third in, nothing happens for a _very long time_, and the little bit that happens doesn't seem believable to me. There is a garden playing a very strong role in the story, and the description felt to me as if Zola had gotten hold of a botany book and decided to dump the name of every plant species on the reader.
I decided to stick with it till the end for no better reason than wanting to complete my read of all Rougon-Macquart, and trudged on a few pages a day, while reading another book the rest of the time. The end was interesting, and one piece actually brought tears to my eyes, so this was a relief, but definitely not worth the cost of reading this book.
Finally, finally, fantasy that I liked! I used to love fantasy when I was in my teens and early twenties and the genre is still very dear to me but since then I have had the hardest time finding fantasy books that I actually enjoyed reading (the notable exception was Blood Ties by Pamela Freeman and its sequels, which were terrific).
This world is tectonically mad, being in an almost permanent state of earthquakes of various intensity. The orogenes are people born with a special, magical power: they can tune in to the energy of the earth - either to quell earthquakes or to create them. Because of their destructive capacities they are much feared and hated by the general population, even though the empire uses their talent to keep it stable - litterally, by preventing earthquakes on the empire's territory.
We follow several characters in this book, which touches on the subject of racism: are orogenes really similar to animals which need to be domesticated so that their powers are used for good and not destruction? The characters are really well thought-of, complex and believable, and the book overall felt very humane to me.
I was a bit disappointed with the ending. I know it's only the first book in a trilogy so I didn't expect full resolution but still, the ending felt a bit vague to me. This won't prevent me from reading the sequel though!
(read in French}
This is the third book in the Parasol Protectorate series started with Soulless. This book resolves the cliff hanger that was at the end of the second book, and involves for Alexia a trip to Italy via France (luckily her good friend Ivy gave her a pound of tea before she left, after having heard the most horrible thing about Italians: they drink coffee).
This was still a fun read, but I got less caught up with it than the other too. I will probably wait a while before I read the next in the series.
>154 chlorine: I might take a look at this at some point. I'm better with science fiction than I am with fantasy and find it hard to just pick up a random fantasy book, especially when it's a series, so it's good to hear about which ones are worthwhile.
I totally agree with you that picking up random fantasy books is risky. This being said, I very rarely pick any book randomly now that I have the opportunity to read reviews on the web beforehand.
Speaking of minority writers, I really should have gone to Eurocon this year: its theme was African SF, and it was held in Amiens, France - a perfectly doable train journey from where I live. But I chickened out because it looked like it might be more for insiders than the general public. I thought it might be awkward and intimidating. Of course, now that I've seen the schedule, I wish I had been braver... Hopefully, there will be videos of the talks online (but I'm not holding my breath).
Eurocon sounds like it must have been really interesting!
I'm considering going to Worldcon next year, as it will be in Dublin, and therefore easily accessible from France (and I've never been to Ireland, so that's another incentive to go). But that's pretty intimidating for me as I've never attended a convention.
And now I see that Eurocon will also be in Ireland next year...
Worldcon Dublin sounds fantastic and so easy to get to from France! And we might not get another one in Europe for a few years.... It's tempting!
>165 janemarieprice: I'd be interested in your thoughts if you decide to read it! Because I have so much trouble finding books that I like I read very little fantasy and so I have no idea of how this book compares with respect to other recent fantasy books.
You might consider starting it and if you get bored during the second part, skip it: that's the part in the garden and we know what's happening at the end of that anyway. The first and third parts are more tolerable.
Here are some notes on the stories I liked the most.
The Waitabits by Eric Frank Russel. Why are the inhabitants of this planet called the Waitabits? Wait a bit and you'll find out!
At Dorado by Geoffrey Landis. A tragic love affair and a ship wreck at a space station that serves as a transit point for space ships. Of course with relativity, it's impossible to know when events really take place with respect to the station's time line.
Twenty-one, counting up by Harry Turtledove. This is a companion short-story to Forty, Counting down, which is featured earlier in the book. The main protagonist travels back in time to correct mistakes that led his life awry. The first story is told from the older man's perspective, this one is told from the youngster's. It was cool to read this second one, and the editors chose wisely IMO to include both but not one right after the other.
Loob by Bob Leman. A time travel paradox story set in a western town that did not develop as it should have.
Message in a Bottle by Nalo Hopkinson. The main protagonist's friends have adopted a child. A very peculiar child.
Red Letter Day by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Time travel is available to the masses in a limited fashion: everyone, when he/she gets 50, is allowed to send back one letter to his/her former self at graduation time. The main character is a counsellor for those who did not receive a letter. Is it because they died before reaching 50, or because they chose not to write a letter?
All in all this was a great collection and reading it over a long period of time, while reading other books, was perfect for me. I'll probably look out for The weird, also edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, in the future.
You said in Valkyrdeath's thread that Andreas Eschbach is an author you'd like to discover, so I thought I'd tell you what my (very small) experience of him is. Hopefully, other people will chime in! I read Des milliards de tapis de cheveux (The Carpet Makers) after a friend recommended it to me with superlative praise. I loved the beginning, but as the story progressed and it became clear that none of the 8 (if I remember rightly) main, point-of-view, characters would be female, and that the women in the story are little more than human angora goats, I became more and more annoyed. A couple of years later, I went to this talk with Eschbach because I was curious about what he would be like as a person. I imagined he would be very reactionary and old-fashioned and probably quite old... Of course, he was none of those things face to face! I had a look at his author page recently. He's written plenty of novels with female characters (no idea whether they are believable or not though) since The Carpet Makers, which was his first novel, unless I am mistaken. So it seems he has evolved, which is encouraging! There might be a parallel to draw with Alain Damasio: his first novel, La zone du dehors, has women as foils to the main male character who is a bit of a Gary Stu, but the second, La Horde du Contrevent is a polyphony of different voices - male and female - with very different viewpoints. I'm planning on reading L'or du diable at some point, to see what his writing is like these days.
Look at me, I actually finished a series!
This book is the second in the series started with The Prefect (also published as Aurora Rising) but both books belong in the universe that Reynolds started in Revelation Space, so I tend to consider the whole as a series.
Like The prefect, Elysium Fire takes place in the Glitter Band - a ring of habitats orbiting the Yellowstone planet, and is centered on Prefect Dreyfus, a member of the law enforcement authority. We also meet again his two sidekicks: Thalia Ng and Sparver Bancal. A series of deaths start happening all over the glitter band: people die from neural implants overheating (everybody in the glitter band except the prefects has such implants).
I don't read much police procedurals but I think this book has many of the tropes of the genre: Dreyfus is a very competent investigator, with a very accurate intuition but poor human skills, and has some scars caused by his personal life. What doesn't usually work for me in police procedural worked perfectly here. I completely understand the reservations that one reviewer has about the plot, but I was swept away and had a hard time putting this book down before I finished it.
I have read the early books published in Alastair Reynolds Revelation Space series and so its good to hear his later books are as good.
I started a small home yoga practice in June, mainly by watching youtube videos of Yoga with Adriene (which I highly recommend). I wanted to get a bit deeper in my understanding and grabbed this from the library.
There are three main parts: an introductory part presenting the different types of yoga and the general guidelines for a practice, which I found interesting. Then a main part with the descriptions of many poses and their benefits, followed by example sessions and advice on how to design your own session.
The last part was about yoga as a life style and interested me the least, even though I was quite interested in this beforehand because of my meditation practice.
In the end I found the book interesting, even if the advice on how to develop your own sequence of poses was not clear enough for my taste. This book would be much more interesting as a reference you keep than as a library book, because I cannot refer to the poses descriptions now that I've returned it.
Meditation is a priority over yoga for me, but I'm currently trying to explore how yoga done by myself (without a video) can be a form of meditation, so that I can spend less time meditating while still having the benefits and have the time to do both.
If you're interested, Adriene is launching on online 14 days class starting on September, 14:
(and it's free)
I'm debating whether to join in myself or not.
Did you join the Adriene class?
Yes I did join Adriene's class. It's interesting (I've still got two days to go) but I can't say I see a big difference with following her other series of videos and I don't think it will help me practice by myself.
I also started classes that are given at my university for a very cheap price (80 euros for the year). Apparently the style is yin yoga. The first session was really interesting although it felt as if not much happened. I'm looking forward to see how it progresses during the year.
These are the second and third book in the trilogy started with The fifth season.
I had been a bit disappointed at the end of the first book because it ended so abruptly. This disappointment did not last: once I started reading the obelisk gate I was quickly enthralled again.
We follow the same characters as in the first book, plus a new one (
The third book concludes the story without leaving any threads dangling (at least not that I could notice). We also get to know, little by little, how the world came to be the way it is, and these were the parts that interested me most.
On the negative side, I found some of the reservations I had in the second book became worst, and some of the character building felt less believable (
But all in all this is a great ending to the series. I'll be looking out for what Jemisin writes next.
This book is in some sense the sequel to Le monde selon Monsanto (the world according to Monsanto) that Robin wrote approximately 10 years before. She was asked to participate to a judging of Monsanto. The judging has no power to give any verdict but was conducted by active or retired judges, on their free time. The goal was to study the evidence of the pollution created by Monsanto and write recommendations.
The book is mostly about the evidence, and the accounts of the witnesses and experts are chilling: not only is roundup bad for health, but the introduction of OGM plants that are resistant to it has increased its uses, leading to the fact that weeds become resistant to it, increasing its use; to top that its prolonged use is not good for the crops either, or for the animals that are fed on the OGM plants that both lack minerals and contain roundup, or for us...
The book also describes the way the authorisations of use are decided in the US and the EU, as well as the evaluation of the risks and what constitutes a safe dose. This is disquieting.
On the brighter side, a legal procedure in the US has lead to many internal documents of Monsanto being made public. This sheds light of the company's behaviour for obfuscating evidence about the toxicity of roundup, which is its main product.
A short time after finishing the book I heard that a verdict had been rendered, condemning Monsanto to pay more than 250 millions dollars in damages for a man who used a lot of roundup and is suffering from a cancer. Monsanto is appealing. Many other cases are currently being instructed and will come to trial, the next one being apparently scheduled for February, 2019.
And in English: