Friday, February 25, 2011

Top 10: Books I’m currently reading

On my bedside table right now, there are 21 books. I never used to read more than one book at a time, in fact I never understood how people did it, but somehow during the course of my uni career I had started doing it. I think it was because I wanted to read books I wanted to read, but I also had to read set books. So I’d alternate depending on what I felt like at the time. The problem with this system is that some books take forever to finish because they simply fall by the wayside as the others take over. And I also get a stack building up that never seems to get any less. But anyway, for this week’s Top 10 list, I thought I’d take the ten books on top of the pile and quote a paragraph (or part of one at least) from the page I am currently on. Reading = love.

He swung around to confront the others; in this instant the scene had changed, he saw instead the backs of the royal squires, shields locked, heaving off the Agrives. Hephaistion came breasting through like a swimmer through surf, and stood to shield his back.
Fire from Heaven – Mary Renault*

Old women wore it as a talisman around their necks, and they secretly knelt before idols carved from the holy stone. Mothers sewed it into their children's clothes, so the stone should make them fearless and protect them. But there had never been a Goyl whose skin was made of jade.
Reckless – Cornelia Funke

Finally after inflicting grave injuries on each other and doing much damage the two sides separated, and the Lacedaemonians saving all their empty ships except those which had been taken at first. Both sides then returned to their camps. The Athenians then set up a trophy, and gave back the dead. They seized hold of the wrecks and immediately began to sail round the island and keep it under guard, regarding the mean on it as now cut off. On the other hand the Peloponnesans on the mainland and the reinforcements which had now arrived from all directions remained in position at Pylos.
The best of Thucydides - Thucydides (trans. MG Dickson)

'The Hellenistic states had their origin on the battlefield,' Yvon Garlan emphasizes, 'and that is where they met their doom.' Throught the three centuries of their existence, warfare was continuous and ubiquitous, the main, and often the exclusive, topic of contemporary historians.
Alexander the Great and the Hellenistic Age – Peter Green

The morality of the Romans in this as in later periods had almost no connection with religion. The Roman did not ask his gods to make him good, but to bestow upon the community and upon his family material blessings. Morality was a matter of patriotism and of respect for authority and tradition. 
Western Civilizations - Edward McNall Burns

Whatever the origin of our representations, whether they are due to the influence of outer things, or are produced through inner causes, whether they arise a priori, or being appearances have an empirical origin, they must all, as modifications of mind, belong to inner sense. All our knowledge is this finally subject to time, the formal condition of inner sense. In it they must all be ordered, connected and brought into relation. This is a general observation which, throughout what follows, must be borne in mind as being quite fundamental.
Critique of Pure Reason – Immanuel Kant

But it was not so at all. They wandered, first down into the Vale and then gradually south and westward around the mountains, given lodging in little villages or spending the night out in the wilderness, like poor journeyman-sorcerers, or tinkers, or beggars. They entered no mysterious domain. Nothing happened. 
The Wizard of Earthsea – Ursula K. Le Guin

Though he was the same age as all of them, Thor towered over the other Roosters and was, in fact, the tallest eleven-year-old on Clam Island, as he had been the tallest nine-year-old, and the tallest five-year-old, and the tallest toddler, too.
Summerland – Michael Chabon

And it seemed I understood more viscerally than ever the atmosphere of purposeful gloom which had overhung my childhood in far-off Kiev. I saw again the muddy catacombs, and the half-buried monks who had cheered me on to become one of them.
The Vampire Armand – Anne Rice

Connie went to the wood directly after lunch. It was really a lovely day, the first dandelions making suns, the first daisies so white. The hazel thicket was a lace-work, of half-open leaves, and the last dusty perpendicular of the catkins. Yellow celandines now were in crowds, flat open, pressed back in urgency, and the yellow glitter of themselves. It was the yellow, the powerful yellow of early summer.
Lady Chatterley’s Lover – D.H. Lawrence (this is a perfect example of a book that’s taking me ages to finish for no other reason than I keep reading other stuff. I like it, it's an interesting read, but others somehow keep taking  precedence.)

* I’m in trouble with this book, and I don’t know what to do. First up, it’s making me so ridiculously happy. I am in love with the characters. I adore Renault’s Alexander. He is just…divine. By no means is he perfect, you can see where the cracks will form, but the flaws just make him more captivating. I think because you follow the character from childhood, you just become completely invested. Olympias is just something else. And Hephaistion. Oh, Hephaistion. He’s everything Louis in the Vampire Chronicles could have been, had he not been so weak. His loyalty, his deference, none of it lessens his intensity or his pride. But now I have a problem. The book is part of a trilogy, so to speak. It ends with Philip’s death, and the next one picks up after the Persian campaign and follows the last years of his life. Like I said, I adore this Alexander, and I want to know how it plays out, but the book is told from the point of view of a character I know is going to break my heart. And I like delusion, you know? I would like to pretend Hephaistion never had to feel second best, or third, or fourth, whatever. I’d like to pretend that he really was the only one who really understood Alexander. Because Hephaistion is brilliant, ok? Team Hephaistion all the damn way. Also, I like saying Hephaistion. Hee. (Actually, I prefer using Hephaestion, but the other spelling is used in the book.) On one hand, I should probably give Renault the benefit of the doubt. I’ve loved the characters so far, who’s to say I won’t like Bagoas too? Except…how can I, when I am so invested in the other? I don’t want to see things from his point of view, and I know it’s going to make me angry. The same sort of simmering throw-the-book-across-the-room frustrated anger that the Torchwood books incur when Gwen is being pushy and acting (vehemently) entitled. So now I’m stuck. I’m tempted to just skip to Funeral Games, the third book that deals with the empire’s demise following Alexander’s death. But then Renault is so good at evoking character and creating scenes, I feel like I’d miss something if I did. Waaaah.

That awkward moment when you remember the character you’re in love with was a real person and won’t ever have any semblance of a happy ending because he’s devoted to a king who can be a bit of a prat but doesn’t realise because he’s just doing what king’s do after all; has his value doubted, and then dies at 32 because he eats after the physician tells him not to. And then, by some accounts at least, Alexander has the doctor executed. Everyone wins. Wait, what?

Music: Sowing season - Brand New

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