There was a recent discussion considering the idea of a monthly Book (later expanded to movies, links, etc) thread. The poll was pretty unanimous that this was A Good Idea (tm). The past two threads have had a decent amount of activity, so let's keep going.

Post what you're reading, listening to, watching, and your opinion of it. Post recommendations to blogs. Post whatever media you feel like discussing!


  • Please avoid downvoting; this is a thread for sharing subjective experiences, and people should feel comfortable posting their personal opinion without fearing a karma backlash. If you disagree with a person's recommendation, please post a comment to that effect.
  • If you want to post something that (you know) has been recommended before, but have another recommendation to add, please link to the original, so that the reader has both recommendations.
  • Please use the comment trees, which I was apparently too dumb to do.

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Anime & Manga Thread

By popular demand

I've been watching Mobile Suit Gundam - the original. It's better than I expected, with some thoughtful universe-building, although the distance in time means I'm not always sure how plot events are supposed to be taken; I'm pretty sure the casual sexism was a condition of the time & place, but I'm not sure whether I'm supposed to regard Amuro as a prat who seems determined to prove every characters' criticism of him right, nor whether Char is an anti-hero or just a loathsome backstabbing toad. Regardless, interesting to see one of the grandaddies of all mecha anime.

So just curious, has anyone seen the 8th episode of Nisemonogatari and had the same mixed reaction of awkward, shock, disbelief but most of all hilarity because they noticed what their brain was doing? For all I've said, I still have no idea what I felt toward that particular episode.

About to watch Rinne no Lagrange. Seems to be a fine, upbeat mecha series, with an eye towards improving on the familliar post-Eva cliches


Don't the Japanese have a one-Mario limit?

I'm probably going to watch this this weekend. Looks pretty fun.

Other Media Thread

This Cracked article could've been written by a LWian: 6 Logical Fallacies That Cost You Money Every Day

Yay for the popularization of concepts that should be widely known!

Cracked is great. Some articles suck, but it fairly frequently comes out with things of actual value. It's like Wikipedia with dick jokes.

I'll put in another recommendation for Homestuck. I learned of it from here and it's as good as advertised.

It's basically a web comic of sorts presented in the form of a text-driven adventure game. It starts simply but eventually gets pretty epic, and has very well-developed characters. The general intellectual attitude is pretty compatible with LW. You'll have to be able to enjoy or at least tolerate a high dose of silliness at frequent intervals, however (which results from the partially audience-driven nature of the story. See explanation).

edit: I should say what it's actually about too: It's a drama/comedy about some kids that get sucked into a powerful video game, with loads and loads of meta (and eventually, loads and loads of characters, although it starts off gently enough).

This whole karmassassination thing is getting really, really old.

Inspired by the Black March thing, I plan to avoid all commercial entertainment media for the month. Also some social news timesinks for good measure.

Non-fiction books will be fair game regardless of commercial status though.

The Protomen

Indie rock opera (first one on YouTube here ) based on the plot of the Megaman games, about an android created to liberate a dystopian society. I like the sound and the transhumanist-esque themes.

Movies Thread

Just finished Truman Capote's classic true-crime In Cold Blood, showing both the perspectives of the victims (some family in Kansas) and the killers. It's from '66, but it doesn't feel dated at all (well, the time it describes is, of course). Really enjoyed the book, even though I'm not too much into the genre.

Now reading Edward de Bono's Think!, which seems to be a bit of an overview of his other books. In general, I like his ideas, and they help me at times to come up with creative solutions to problems, to step outside the normal neural pathways. Having said that, in Think! DeBono spends way too much time promoting himself - and a specific chapter about bad journalism, which has, as a prime example of that, a less-than praising review of one of his earlier books... So, I wouldn't recommend this book.

I've just started "Principles of Uncertainty". It seems like a solid introduction to Bayesian statistics, with a focus on underpinnings and implications. Since I've barely started I can't give to much of an opinion, but it looks very well written so far.

I've been reading Nick Lane's "Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution" since I have a large lacking of knowledge in biology and evolution and it was recommended to me. I would recommend the book to people like me, who don't have systematic knowledge in biology and want to learn some cool tidbits, particularly about early life. Non-rigorous. Easy-to-read.

Having now finished the book, I would like to add that the last chapter "Death" serves as a good introduction to research into life- and health-extending tech from the point of view of evolution. The author is quite optimistic that rapid progress is possible and just on the horizon if we concentrate on it.

It somewhat of an old book, (as scientific non-fiction goes) published in 2000, but one of my favorite science books of all time was Genome, by Matt Ridley. It was shortly after the human genome project was completed. Ridley took each chromosome in the human body and examined something interesting on each chromosome. Each chromosome got a chapter. Sometimes it was a bit of a stretch (Ridley is a science writer not by any means a scientist. For example, there was a "Free Will" chapter, because the chromosome basically didn't have anything interesting on it) but a lot, if not all of it, of it was very good information, particularly if you don't have a solid background in biology and human genetics.

I've been reading much more fantasy in this last year. Probably because I've already exhausted too much of sci-fi, or perhaps the impending singularity is making good sci-fi harder to write ;)

Anyway, my recent favorites:

The Song of Fire and Ice Series (Thrones): This really may be the best fantasy series of all time. I can't remember enjoying a series this much since first reading Dune when I was young. It really is as good as the hype. Martin's skill is multifaceted: his dozens characters are believable and captivating, the world is vast and deep, and there are few dull moments in any of the multiple arcing plotlines. The world is gritty and random, the characters are real, and sometimes they die. The subtlety in his art is in how he adapts his writing to the narrator's point of view to really submerge you in their stream of thoughts. In this respect his work almost reminds me of Faulkner and "As I Lay Dying". The dialog is second to none. My only minor complaint would be that some of the seemingly important moments, such as some of the battles, are skipped over in the transitions between character chapters. But in the end there are probably reasons for that.

The Dying Earth, Jack Vance: I found and read this specifically and solely because Martin mentioned it as a major influence. The Dying Earth is a stories and one novella set in the same world. The world setting is the unique selling point. It's fantasy, but it takes place in a far future earth where humans have long since developed technology indistinguishable from magic, and then much later completely forgot how any of the technology worked until they are left with literal magic which some of them can use but none really understand. The sun is old and dying, and more or less every mode of existence has already been attempted at least once. The dialog is sometimes obtuse to the point of annoyance but if you can get over that the world and adventures are fascinating.

Tigana (Guy Gavriel Kay): Tigana is a long stand alone fantasy set in a world you could summarize as somewhat like medieval italy + magic. The plot is multifaceted but centers around complex multi-generational crimes and revenge in a war-torn realm. Of the recent fantasy I've read, Kay at times most reminds me of R Martin: they both build detailed worlds modeled after medieval fact for substance and then add in a system of magic on top, they both interweave multiple narrations from believable characters, and both use well structured plots which build up to satisfying climaxes. Kay's writing is sometimes a little slower than Martin's but in the end he achieves a simliar high quality. I've just picked a few of his other novels (none of which appear to be series).

Listening to the Sword of Truth series audiobooks. My impression so far: meh. Lots of preaching, fallacies and inconsistencies in between some decent action and fighting sequences. I guess MoR has ruined the fantasy genre for me.

Actually, it's just that the Sword of Truth is really, really bad.

People armed only with their hatred of moral clarity


In the first books I liked the story. There is a hero who must fight not only against his opponents but often also against his self-proclaimed allies. There is an overpowered opponent capable of magic, neutralizing magic, long-distance mind reading, politics, propaganda, leading armies, mass destruction, and conquering the world. I was really curious how this hero could succeed to defeat such opponent. Unfortunately, even the author was unable to solve this puzzle well, and the conflict resolution pretty much did not make sense.

I was mostly annoyed with the inconsistencies in the characters' behavior, and their constant refusal to make an obvious logical decision. "Gonna suicide now" "I will fight for my life with all my might!" Or: staying put solves the problem, so the character goes on a lengthy and dangerous journey. Or: asking an obvious question solves a thorny issue, so the character remains silent. The sequels appear to be even worse in that regard.

The Mote In God's Eye has gotten a tad dull about a third of the way through. Does it get better? Because I've also got The Restaurant and the End of The Universe to finish.

Mote gets steadily more exciting throughout the book.

The sequel also starts off dull and gets better, but not to nearly the same extent.


I will respectfully disagree. I really liked the beginning when they were introducing the setting, talking about crunchy sci-fi stuff and detailing how the ship's gravity (constant acceleration, had to strap in and be very careful if accelerating, and the first contact stuff). (I'm trying not to spoil anything, apologies if I'm being vague.)

Later on, when they were talking about the Moties in detail, I couldn't seem to suspend disbelief well enough to actually enjoy the rest of the story, and I gradually got more bored the further I went.

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Strangely, I found I enjoy the setup and description of the Motie cycles much more than the early parts. Kind of horrifying and reminded me of the Protector homeworld with the sterilized Protectors and the library in Niven's Known Space.

Just finished Connie Willis' Blackout/All Clear, a story set in WW2 London, around some historians from 2060 that travel back to that era. Overall, I liked the story (though a bit too much melodramatic at times); however, I was not impressed with the time-travelling aspect at all. As if the writer didn't really think it through; in particular, I don't like when the 'the universe doesn't care about you' is broken without some kind of explanation. Anyway, the books have won many awards, so I may hold a minority opinion here...

Loving Season of the Spellsong. Incredibly funny at the points were it actually tries to be funny. Good plot and good characters. The basic types are pretty cliche, ordinary high school, I mean college, student gets sucked into a magical world and gheaf bhg gb unir zntvpny cbjref which is only a spoiler if you have no genre savvy what so ever. But Foster is very creative about the details.

I recently read and intensely enjoyed Laini Taylor's "Daughter of Smoke and Bone".

I have since been directed to a review which complains about the book being about the thing that it's about. So, uh, if you don't like the thing that it is (fantasy with a romance subplot and apparently it's for YA audiences although I do not know how anyone is supposed to determine that about a book) you might not like it.

Stephen Hawking A Brief History Of Time. Not entirely outdated, and surprisingly readable. I must note that it is immeasurably enhanced by being read to a soundtrack of MC Hawking.

edit: oops, wrong subheading, sorry!