Here's the thing: I need more books. Books are expensive here, especially English language books, and the selection isn't that great either. I can get by with libraries and the few charity shops that exist (it's not as common a custom as in England). But unlike in the UK, I can't really find affordable books that I want as fast as I can read them. If I'm going to buy full-price books, I might as well buy them online.
My thinking is that if I buy lots of books at once, I'll be efficient with the postage costs. That means probably Amazon, since something like Abebooks which is a market place, not a retailer, loses the advantage of combining postage. Or does anyone have any better ideas? I'm not terribly enamoured of Amazon, but I think it's probably the most useful service for the purpose I want.
So, now's the time to recommend me stuff and I might actually get round to buying it, rather than putting it on a list and hoping that the appropriate title turns up some time. I have found that just asking for recs doesn't really work, so I'm going to play a game. If you comment to recommend something that I should buy, I'll recommend you something in the same format. I most especially want recs for books, but I might buy computer games, or DVDs, or classical music CDs too while I'm at it.
If you recommend a book, please recommend a specific title, not just an author. For classical music, I want recs of recordings really, I generally know what I like in terms of composers. (I don't buy classical music as mp3s, because a movement of a classical work doesn't map sensibly onto a "track" in the mp3 sense.) That said, I am subscribing to emusic again at the moment, so if you want to recommend me pop music, please go ahead. Again, I'd prefer specific songs, or at least albums, rather than just names of artists.
Do you need to know my tastes? My last four years of reading material; my music listening habits thanks to Web 2.0. LastFM is basically useless for classical though, so I should add that I like almost all Baroque and most early 20th century Impressionism, but I'm pickier about Classical and the earlier Romantic stuff. As a very broad generalization, I prefer orchestral or instrumental chamber music to opera and choral music, and secular to sacred, but there are definitely exceptions. Favourite composers: Couperin, Rameau, Scarlatti, Bach (duh!), Telemann, Händel, Mozart, Schubert, Dvorak, Ravel, Débussy, Fauré, Scriabin, Stravinsky. I've probably forgotten some cos I'm bad at making lists.
Now you're making me feel old, because Imajica being in two volumes kind of postdates my being-into-Barker phase. I would be hesitant to recommend Imajica to livredor myself, both because I think there are several places in it that might go over her ickiness threshold, and because it's a nice tight 600-page novel flailing around helplessly trapped inside a thousand-page-plus pile of verbiage. The Barker I still like most is The Great and Secret Show, and I'm not sure about the ickiness issues there either.
Assassin's Apprentice is indeed good, as is Royal Assassin, but I was very disappointed in Assassin's Quest, which both drastically changes mode, and does the mode it changes to drastically badly, so I've not reread them in ages.
I keep looking at my bookshelf and thinking "Ooh, you haven't read such-and-such yet!" But my bookshelf's at home, and I'm out this evening, so I shall comment again on Sunday and find rysmiel has recommended you already most of what I was going to recommend you; and then recommend you the rest.
And then be stumped from now on as to what to get you for your birthday. ;^b
Based purely on my bookshelf here (rather than my reading list, which, being soft copy only, I couldn't consult on Shabbos)...
In alphabetical order, and skipping books I have blogged about myself:
Ian Banks' Walking On Glass might be your sort of thing.
There's a book called Clara, by Janice Galloway, about Clara Schumann (wife of Robert Schumann, friend of Johannes Brahmes, and one of the most acclaimed pianists of the nineteenth century). The review on Amazon warns it's not as historically accurate as might be wished for, but as a character novel I think it's down your line.
There's a book called The Ice People by Maggie McGee I read after I heard the author interviewed on Radio 4. As a portrayal of how the world could be plunged into a new Ice Age (global warming notwithstanding) it wasn't too whelming; as a study of the relations between men and women I found it much better. Of course, since evaluating this kind of thing is not my forte, you might find it annoying, but there's only one way to tell.
I presume I already lent you The Death of Grass at some point, yesno?
Paul McAuley's The Invisible Country really impressed me.
Kim Stanley Robinson's The Years of Rice and Salt may be your kind of thing, I don't know.
I've probably wibbled on about Michael Scott Rohan's Winter of the World series before...
Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion were probably the books I was thinking of in the comment of mine I'm following up to here...
Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog is highly enjoyable, if you don't mind the author's slightly stereotyped and also incorrectly British Brits...
Norstrilia would make an excellent introduction for you to Cordwainer Smith.
Finally, Gene Wolfe's There Are Doors may be down your line, being a character-oriented story about a man who falls into a world where all men die (their immune systems collapsing) after having sex for the first time.
Well, there's my suggestions; hope you find them useful.
Michael Ondaatje "In the Skin of a Lion" - his best IMO "The Mahabharara - A Modern Rendering" by Ranesh Menon. The 2 volume HB (2000pp) can be ordered from India for about $35 inc P&P. Patrick Leigh-Fermor "A Time of Gifts" and "Between the Wind and the Water" - account written much later of PLFs attempt, aged 19, to walk from Dover to Istanbul in 1934. Fabulous writing. Jo Walton "Tooth and Claw" - really good and I usually don't like that sort of thing.
Ouch, that's five, I should have set a limit on this game, shouldn't I?!
I enjoyed The English Patient so why not go for another Ondaatje? Anne Michaels: Fugitive Pieces is Canlit and Ondaatje's writing reminded me of hers, so that's one.
A good modern translation of Mahabharara sounds like a really cool idea. I think the best match I have for that is Dorothy L Sayers' verse translation of Dante.
Good non-fiction with a high standard of prose is André Maurois' biography of Alexander Fleming, which I read for a primary school project on biography and it left a strong impression though it was way over my head. If you read French well enough to read it in French then go for it; I can't remember who did the translation I read.
Tooth and Claw was on the list of stuff I likely wanted anyway, since I slightly know Jo Walton and enjoyed her Arthurian stuff. I haven't read any of the Trollope it's supposed to be based on, and I can't think of any good grownup dragon books off the top of my head. Have you read any WS Maugham? Of human bondage is long and Victorian but a very good example of such.
Music is hard, actually, because what I'm mostly aware of your liking is opera with really fantastic female leads, and I'm not strongly into opera. Naxos are indeed wonderful. If you like Fauré's Requiem at all, the Naxos version, with Oxford Schola Cantorum, number 8.550765, is the ultimate version IMO . (And it has a yummy Cantique de Jean Racine as a bonus.) But if you hate Fauré to start with, which a lot of people do, then it isn't going to be much good to you.
Geoff Ryman, Air Anything by Maureen McHugh, but particularly China Mountain Zhang and Nekropolis Ali Smith, The Accidental Johanna Sinisalo, Not Before Sundown Gwyneth Jones, Life Matt Ruff, Set This House in Order Anything by Kim Stanley Robinson -- you must have read some, surely? But particularly Pacific Edge and the recent series beginning with Forty Signs of Rain.
I'd second the rec for Air, and indeed anything by Ryman short of The Unconquered Country which is definitely too horrible for livredor. I'd particularly like to see how well 253 works for her, come to think of it.
I thought Nekropolis had odd focus things wrong with it and sort of completely melted at the end, but China Mountain Zhang is brilliant.
Kim Stanley Robinson is very variable, to my mind. His early stuff tends to good-but-weird, and come to think of it I have a spare Icehenge which I should send you, but I am in the camp of those who think the Mars trilogy drags, and drags, and drags some more, and takes ten times the time and effort needed to make a point about ecology that is obvious to a toasted teacake, and then drags some more, and so on. Robinson writing about left-wing politics has the kind of vague Utopianism that comes from not having much experience of their realities, and you put his books next to Ken MacLeod and they sort of shrivel up and blow away on those grounds.
That said the Three Californias [ The Wild Shore, The Gold Coast, Pacific Edge ] as a whole thing are a work of genius, very much greater than the sum of their parts. They need to go in that order, IMO.
Hell and damnation and other such swearwords; I have just looked at the receipt in my pocket and discovered that the package I sent you with the object of ameliorating the lack of books a couple of weeks ago seems to have been sent surface mail. It was in the middle of a pile of other things - several belated birthday presents that had not been bought or sent while I was having a financial crisis - and I can see how the postal person could have got confused with the set of things to be done, but still, I grump.
As recommendations go, I think you want to get The Book of Taltos and possibly also The Book of Athyra at this point, given how much you have enjoyed the series so far. Though you may well already know that.
There aren't that many things left that I think you'd really like and have not already got you or persuaded you to get, is the thing. I think Ian McDonald's River of Gods would be to your taste, but the only US edition is a hardcover, whereas it's out in pb in Britain, so ordering it in the economically sensible way would not achieve the save-on-postage and general efficiency goal.
Hell and damnation and other such swearwords feels like the start of a poem. This is probably ML's fault and not an impulse I should act on.
the package I sent you with the object of ameliorating the lack of books I feel really embarrassed now, because I so much wasn't fishing for presents by complaining that I'd read most of what I managed to bring to Sweden. Thank you anyway. And given I was not expecting a present at all, if it gets here slowly I'm still going to be just as delighted when it turns up.
You are of course right that I need to read more of the Vlad Taltos books; that was one thing already on the list. Taltos looks like it ought to be about Vlad's early life and presumably includes the bit with the Paths of the Dead that he keeps alluding to, which sounds cool. Is there some good reason to jump over Phoenix, which appears to be next in sequence according to the notes in my trilogy?
There aren't that many things left that I think you'd really like and have not already got you or persuaded you to get I think this is rather a good thing, you know. You've introduced so many brilliant books into my life, and even given me a good proportion of them, which is really a great kindness.
River of Gods, ok, and I'll make a note of your advice about efficient ways of buying it. I think I may end up making one order from Amazon UK and one from US; the dollar being so weak against the increased postage cost from the US mean that it's marginal which is cheaper for any given order, so I'll juggle them a bit.
Stories of Your Life was actually already on my mental list (which I should probably transform into a physical list somewhere, come to think of it), because coalescent has already enthused about it a great deal, and I've read the title story in an anthology of pnh's that lethargic_man lent to me. Anyway, I have every reason to trust your book recommendations, by now.
I'm going to count that as two book recs I owe you. You really really need to read The ground beneath her feet, because it's so very like The Armageddon Rag in a lot of ways, including quality. Since I need to replace my copy anyway, I will perhaps get two and send one to you.
I can't think of collection of short stories to suggest to you, cos I almost never read short stories. I assume you've read Saki? If not that, it's going to have to be a novel, so what about William Horwood: Skallagrigg? It's deeply flawed, I would even say broken, but it's flawed in ways that few other novels are and the parts of it that work are breathtakingly brilliant, also in highly original ways.
Leon Uris is a fabulous author: Exodus is where I started, and the film I recommended a couple of weeks ago.
I'd have recommended Robin Hobb, but someone already did. I'd say, though, that although Assassin's Apprentice is the first, I preferred Shaman's Crossing and Forest Mage to the previous three trilogies.
Also John Irving. I haven't read him obsessively, but have liked everything I've come across. I started with Cider House Rules, which was a terrible film but great book.
Thanks for these! I don't know your tastes all that well, but how about Vikram Seth: An equal music and, on the fantasy side, Sean Stewart: Nobody's son? They're both books that have a sort of gentleness that isn't terribly fashionable.
Two recommendations for 'classic' SF and Fantasy: - Gordon R. Dickson's 'Tactics of Mistake', 'Dorsai!' and 'Soldier, Ask Not'. (Listed roughly in order of preference). Dickson writes military sci-fi that actually explores some ideas. They're not perfect, by any means, but I enjoyed reading them all. - Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories. These are classic pulp magazine fodder - swords and sorcery pretty much covers it. But they've got a really intricate and fun setting in Lankhmar, and aside from the fun of reading them on their own it's quite fun spotting where later authors have been inspired from them. Since you'd like a specific title, I'll recommend The First Book of Lankhmar.
Also, since I've been exploring e-music recently (bearing in mind that the only thing I know about your musical taste is that you like the Levellers) my favorites so far have been: - The Decembrists - my favorite tracks are "The Legionnaire's Lament" and "Odalisque" - Chumbawumba - shreena and I heard them at last year's Big Session, singing most of the songs from 'A Singsong and a Scrap'. I like "Walking into Battle with the Lord", "Bankrobber" and "Bella Ciao". - Billy Bragg - shreena recommended 'Don't Try This at Home', from which I particularly enjoyed "North Sea Bubble", "You Woke Up My Neighborhood" and "Everywhere"
OK, classic SF: have you read the non-obvious Wyndham? The chrysalids and The Midwich Cuckoos are a lot more subtle than Day of the Triffids. And the classic fantasy that is very much under-appreciated is Hope Mirrlees: Lud-in-the-mist. It's more or less the classic sleepy country village plagued by vaguely malevolent elves, except with drugs and sarcastic humour.
Music: the link to my LastFM page was supposed to help you deduce my tastes in general. But I'm happy for any recs, really.
I already have The Legionnaire's Lament, and I'm still kind of making up my mind about the Decemberists. For another so-cool-it-hurts band I'm liking at the moment, try Arcade Fire: Crown of Love.
Ooh, Chumbawumba, good idea. For years I was put off by the stupid name, but they're actually very cool. Similarly experimental is Venetian Snares, though it's hard to remember which title is which because their best album has all the song titles in Hungarian as a gimmick. Hajnal is probably one to start with, or Második Galamb.
If you and Shreena like Billy Bragg, try Bowling for Soup. I'm mad on them at the moment, they're sort of a parody of an 80s metal band, but with really thoughtful lyrics and a sort of exuberance which saves them from being merely silly. Try I don't wanna rock or the current single, Highschool never ends.
The Blind Assassin, by Margaret Atwood. I just read your review of The Handmaid's Tale, and many of the things I love about Atwood's work seem not to appeal to you, but TBA and, in my recollection, Alias Grace aren't as overwhelmed by the clever language useages. Because she's my favorite writer I do hope you'll try her again.
Unfortunately I've read far too few books in the past three years, so I don't have much to suggest. Unless you want to see the list of books in my "to be read" queue.
I just read The Serpent Garden, which is quite silly and thoroughly enjoyable, The Dance of Anger which was omg amazing, Enigma by Robert Harris, and I'm lusting after reading Rats but I have to wait until Friend B can get it back from Friend C and give it to Friend A to give to me. Oh, and misia's book, of course, Virgin.
You don't have to recommend anything back, I already have an Amazon wish list a mile long :)
Oh yes, I'd been meaning to read misia's book, thanks for reminding me. If you have a wishlist, where is it? While I'm on a book shopping spree I might as well buy you stuff.
I've read Enigma, which struck me as ok but nothing special. It's not really my style of book, I think, rather than having anything wrong with it. The dance of anger looks like the kind of book that would annoy me, I fear. But The serpent garden sounds fun.
I just pulled a few books from the shelf that I've enjoyed recently. In no particular order, they are:
Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again, Norah Vincent (nonfiction)
The Botany of Desire: a Plant's-Eye View of the World, Michael Pollan (nonfiction)
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (autobiography disguised as fiction, and you've probably read it already, but I find more and more in it every time I reread it. If you have not read it, move it to the top of your list, it's that good.)
The Great Influenza: the Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History, John M. Barry (nonfiction)
The Sex Lives of Cannibals, J. Maarten Troost (nonfiction and funny as all get out)
God Against the Gods: the History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism, Jonathan Kirsch (nonfiction)
The Other Boleyn Girl, Philippa Gregory (fiction that gets its history wrong wrong wrong, but a good trashy read)
Temeraire: In the Service of the King, Naomi Novik (fiction, alternate-history fantasy, first published as the three separate books His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, and Black Powder War.)
Oh, Bach is absolutely an exception. I love anything by Bach, and his church choral music is among his best stuff. Do you have a good recommendation for a recording of St Matthew's Passion? Other sacred music I like: Mozart's Requiem, Fauré's Requiem (which is about my favourite piece in the entire world), also some Byrd and some Messaien.
What about "Surviving with wolves"? I haven't read it yet but it was very recommended by Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg. The story character is real. She wrote her own story. She survived as a little girl during the holocaust in the forest with wolves. She ran away from her adoptive parents and travels from country to country to get back to her actually home in Belgium where she properly tries to find her parents. She meets wolves who feed her and care for her. I have never heard such a story before. I sounds extremely fascinating for me.
Thank you, that does sound fascinating. It reminds me a of YA book I enjoyed years ago, I am David. It's a story of a child who survives almost miraculously, but it doesn't have any wolves in that I recall.