Books that you are currently (or were) reading?



Then you might enjoy Fridtjof Nansen’s book *“Farthest North”: Being the Record of a Voyage". It tells of how Nansen and his friend abandon their ship that was caught in ice floating north according to plan, and walk to the farthest Northern point. Only to have to turn around because the ice movement was hampering their progress and when they reached the point of where their ship should have been, they find it had floated away in the ice. They had to use the kayaks they brought with them to make their way south to an island where they were discovered by accident half dead. I plotted a map of it but it is currently not available online due to a web site conversion.


I just read “Crazy Rich Asians” - a Novel by Kevin Kwan.
For someone from a very distant and different culture, it was very nice and interesting. Is an easy reading, because is a novel, but it has an interesting cultural approach.


I haven’t read it yet-- in fact it’s still on pre-order until January 29th-- but it’s on my list of things to read: “Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet.” Sounds very Atlas-y!


I always have to Bring up “Feathers” by Thor Hanson, it’s a very well researched natural history of feathers. It’s told from the authors perspective as he talks with various experts in the subject as well as stories from his own research and adventures with short bits about humans use of feathers.

This book is what managed to get me back into reading after falling out of love during highschool and it always holds a special place for me.


This book is an amazing piece of non-fiction writing. There are two interwoven parallel plots, one having to do with the Fair, it’s inception and the brilliant minds that brought it to be and the other the history of the homicidal maniac who was at large in that part of the city at the time. If you live in Chicago or if you just occasionally visit that great city, you will particularly enjoy going down to the lake shore and seeing the architecture and landscaping that still remains form the Fair and retracing the steps of the monster that lurked in that neighborhood during that time. Regardless of your general tastes in literature, it’s a great read.


I was not aware that any of the buildings still existed since they were constructed as temporary buildings on unstable ground. I had look it up this morning. According to Wikipedia, " Almost all of the fair’s structures were designed to be temporary; of the more than 200 buildings erected for the fair, the only two which still stand in place are the Palace of Fine Arts and the World’s Congress Auxiliary Building. From the time the fair closed until 1920, the Palace of Fine Arts housed the Field Columbian Museum (now the Field Museum of Natural History, since relocated); in 1933 (having been completely rebuilt in permanent materials), the Palace building re-opened as the Museum of Science and Industry."

I added the links take you to each building in Google map so that you can view and rotate them in 3D if you select the 3D button.


PragmaticStatist ,

I’m curious to know , what is your opinion in general on H.H. Holmes ?

I think it’s almost a shame that his “castle” was destroyed as it could have been made into some kind of memorial/ monument for his victims like many of the concentration camps in Europe , Cambodia etc.

I think ultimately when these places get demolished , it just makes the murderers gain more notoriety and the public to feel more distanced from the horror of these crimes , by keeping the building I think it maintains a visceral power to shock and horrify that stops the culprits from being romanticised.

Plus , I dont know if architectural airbrushing of a building where horrific things have happened is ever really a healthy thing for a society to do. I guess its just a denial that anything happened and therefore a denial of the societal causes of this kind of stuff which doesn’t allow us as a culture to confront the past despite how dark it might be.

Afterall we keep the colliseums of Italy , the Norman castles of the UK , the Inquisition cathedrals of Spain , and the Aztec pyramids of Mexico because they are part of our history , however gruesome the history is.

By keeping the “castle” of H.H. Holmes it would have maybe served as a reminder of a time when society was becoming more urbanized, anonymous , impersonal and alienated which was ultimately what allowed the serial killer to get away with his crimes for so long. It would force modern visitors to confront the same ills of our own age.


Well, I would not quite say that I am reading any books, but I do have a pile of them on my desk as well as a bookshelf full in my shared office. There most of them have sat for the past decade, untouched, unread, unloved.

Dust, dusty, dustier.

A few weeks ago, a period neither too long nor presumptuously short, I began to remove single pages from each volume. A knife, sharp, sliced and sometimes tore its way, through ginger-tinted page, before each excised sheet found itself pierced, hanging from a cork board until recently interred at the back of the cleaner’s cupboard.

The more I cut, the stronger came the sighs, those intakes of breath. “No!”

“Can I have that? I would like to read it.”


Haha! Poor books !

I have to ask , what was the purpose of this heinous literary mass murder of yours ?

and … dare I ask … what were the identities of these savagely slain scrolls ?


Ha ha, yes, poor books indeed!

I work for a translation agency who, as I discovered, seem to be more book hoarders than readers. I could not say whether all translators are like this, but it was difficult to interest them in reading, there was always just one more translation to do.

After they saw me take my knife to them, I think they realized it was read now or never.


So it was a purge of publications , haha! I guess that must have persuaded a few of your colleagues to get reading , but were the books just general reading ? or academic texts?

Personally I can think of quite a few academic books and papers I would like to take my pocket knife too , not for any other reason then the joy of destruction or some kind of peer reviewed voodoo doll , particularly some those written by academics at my current place of study

Plus , you could have made a “book safe” from one of them , they are brilliant


While I have made several maps of ancient and other ruins, ghost towns, etc. in order to view buildings that survived time and battle fields of war, places like the “Murder Castle” should NOT be preserved. To do so in my opinion would glorify the activities that took place there and shame those that died. Holmes should not be honored in this way. It was bad enough that his actions were made the subject of a book and a page on Wikipedia and other media.

I find it intriguing that books of murder like this are a compelling read. Like our love of horror films we cannot get enough of them. As a society, our text books glorified the conquistadors, who serial murdered for financial gain, and in the process we created those who would become the wolves of Wall Street and the bean counters and lawmakers of business who value profits more than the humans they serve. For me, the book is a better memorial than the building to those that died there because it made me, far away from Chicago, aware of the horrors and potential dangers to my daughter when she went off to Europe on her own as a young adult.


I totally agree with you pragmatic statist.

I think as a society and maybe as a species / the human condition we seem to have a colossal cognitive dissonance regarding violence.

We condemn the societies or individuals who shed blood as primitive or irredemably evil yet at the same time seem to have a deep seated drive to satiate our own bloodlust through voyeuristic habits.

I guess my opinion differs in one sense in that I believe these places (Whether they be of the murder castle type or a former concentration camp) shouldn’t be destroyed as they serve a purpose to remind a society that often is in denial of its complicity in these horrors.

When these things pass out of living memory , often its just the buildings that remain as reminders and by destroying them I think it just makes the notoriety and twisted mystique grow to unhealthy proportions in which the brutal reality becomes too distant from the media image.

Having said that , I really do understand why people find the idea offputting and why they would prefer that they didn’t become shrines for sick “fans” and their copycat crimes etc.


I’m currently reading “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel. It’s about a theatre troupe trying to survive in a post-fictional ‘swine-flu’ world. It’s so beautifully written so far.

I love everything and all things dystopian/post-apocalyptic. Some of my other recent, very similar favorites have been “Severance” by Ling Ma and “The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker. KTW also just published another post-apocalyptic epidemic called “The Dreamers” that I’m also really excited to read.

Anyone else obsessed with Dystopian/post-apocalyptic lit?


I gave “Severance” as a Christmas gift to my partner’s father. He wasn’t sold on the plot AND the pink cover. I wonder if he’s read it…

On topic:
Currently reading “The Truth About Animals” about Lucy Cooke. Latest chapter I read was on bats. Now I know too much about bats’ sex life.


I’m in the middle of a couple of books:

  1. The Silk Roads - Peter Frankopan. This is a history of, strangely enough, the Silk Road and its effects on the history of the world.

  2. A Crown Of Swords - Robert Jordan. The 7th book in the Wheel of Time series. Can’t believe I’ve gone this far with the series. :slight_smile:


i’m listening to susan orlean’s the library book and really fascinated by it. i just heard about a book i’m dying to read called skippy dies and am thinking of taking the plunge into murakami’s _killing commandatore_since were going to be snowed in in metrolitan seattle this weekend.


I just finished Reckless Daughter, a Joni Mitchell biography, as I’m a huge Joni fan. Currently reading Lincoln in the Bardo - interesting and haunting.


Reading and translating are two activities that are very subjective.

When I made maps of explorer expeditions I read over 40 online books written by the explorers themselves for which I used to plot the maps and quoted and page referenced each placemark. On one hand you can say I read the books because I can tell you of events and the plot that took place. But the reality was I was skimming looking for places and events to plot.

Years ago, when I worked in the graphics department of a major medical device manufacturer, I had to create ads that would appear in a Polish journal. We hired a reputable translator recommended to us and produced the series of ads. I recommended that the VP of marketing have some doctor in Poland verify the translation was a good translation. But the VP declined to do so based on the firm that translated it. Months later I was informed that we got a lot of complaints from Polish doctors that the translation was garbage because it was not translated from a Polish doctor’s perspective. A similar situation happened at shade manufacturer I worked for where we had a successful brochure translated into Spanish. When I showed it to our Mexican and Ecuadorian fabricators prior to publishing they informed me it was Puerto Rican street Spanish not proper Spanish. Members of my staff that could read Spanish could not tell the difference. Google Translate is a reasonable translator, my web site map descriptions get a reasonable result. A test I made translated several of my pages and then I took the resulting translations and translated them back to English with some surprising results. What came back was not exactly as I wrote it but the general understanding one could get from it varied from being reasonably accurate to wildly different. Translating seems to vary widly when it comes to industry jargon. For example a “reverse roll shade” in industry jargon means a window shade that falls toward the window glass rather than a method of eating a bun.

Another map project involved Xuanzang’s 629 Pilgrimage to India that was plotted from Samuel Beal’s translation of Xuangzang’s book Si-Yu-Ki. Buddist Record of the Western World, volumes 1 and 2 . Soon after I got a letter from a Chinese professor at a US university who claimed the 1906 translation was no longer considered accurate. The difference between his map version and mine was that mine included travels in Kyrgyzstan, while his did not. My argument with him was mine was not unauthoritative since it used a reputable source that was considered authoritative for over 100 years and still can be read online.


I love dystopian literature personally , some of my favourites of the genre are : “Oryx and Crake” by Marget Atwood , “1984” by George Orwell and of course “Do androids dream of electric sheep” by Phillip K **** (Apparently I cant write the authors surname due to it also being a slang word for something else)