Kindle broke me! Or, to be precise, it broke my reading habits…
Not my finances, I’ve spent roughly the same amount of money I would spend on books anyway, only I got (YTD) 124 ebooks and 8 paper books… ebooks were, on average, under 1 Euro apiece, thanks to Humble Bundles (and their Polish equivalent, ArtRage). So, I got 15.5 ebooks for each regular book.
This is not as wonderful as it looks, because I’ll never read all the books from the bundles I got… and I sometimes buy ebooks from the peripheries of my TBR only because there is a nice deal on Amazon… I need to devise some new metric measuring book cost. And stop automatically buying all the bundles. Perhaps also unsubscribe from Amazon alerts, I literally just bought Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, while writing this ($3.14 for the whole thing, how could I not?).
But how is my reading broken? Well, the book I read in paper is “Deadhouse Gates”, second volume of Erikson’s Malazan Books of the Fallen. It’s great, but heavy. And requires high concentration, to follow all the names and plot-lines. It’s almost a ritual, to sit down and open it to read a chapter or two.
Kindle is light, and all sort of books are waiting there that I can easily read whenever I have a spare moment. I’ve read 17 titles since Feb 19 that way. During that time I’ve only read one full book on paper and listened to two audiobooks. The ebooks are mostly non genre, and many of them only available in Polish. Or public domain classics.
What I mean to say is, this post is going to be a series of mini-reviews 😉
Wiesław Łuka Nie oświadczam się (“I confess nothing” but said in a distinctly rural dialect)
Something from a very cheap bundle of Polish non-fiction, I’ve already read half of what was included. Money well spent!
1981 True Crime classic depicting a trial of… an entire village, at some point. In a small village, not that far from my native Krakow, a poor family crossed powerful local figure – a guy in good standing with local authorities, the owner of the only tractor around, someone you want to like you if you want to live in peace. They were murdered buy him and several of his clansmen, under the eyes of half the village, on Christmas day. And most of the community collaborated with the murderers when they tried to hide the truth. The almost succeeded and I so see a great HBO mini-series based on this story…
I’m not a true-crime junkie, but this moved me. Not the murder itself, but how the small community united around the perpetrators. Decent, church-going old ladies harassing the few witnesses that broke the wall of silence, victims’ father’s own sister telling him to calm down and forget about it, another pillar of the community explaining, that she would feel sorry if a cow was killed, but these people, well, it just happened and there’s no point wasting time on the past… I’m rarely shocked, but here I was, and I would recommend this – to all Polish speakers.
If you don’t read Polish, you’re likely familiar with Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. It’s a true crime classic, a groundbreaking nonfiction novel adapted into a very good movie, and explored in another one. I’d say, Łuka is even better than Capote. His story is more impressive, and his book is less of an artificial construction, he gives the readers more direct access to what happened. Or, at least, successfully creates such an impression 😉
Tadeusz Boy-Żeleński, various anthologies
My favourite Polish intellectual… medical doctor, a Fin de siècle cabaret writer (Moulin Rouge!-like atmosphere, but in Krakow), and, in a period between world wars, a lonely supporter of modern human rights (especially women rights) and progress in general – concepts rather alien to an autocratic, catholic Poland. So, like our times… and I’ve read several collections of his essays, feeling increasingly depressed, as the impression was – nothing has changed. Oppressive stare, undereducated clergy eager to control all aspects of social life, widespread magical thinking, structural inequalities… and this guy, writing in a modern language that would be perfectly ok in a 2021 newspaper. Sure, there is more of us now, and in a decade or two we might even win some elections 😉
Anyway, it’s so nice to discover this connection to someone I can reach, through his writings, across time.
Johnny Cash Cash: The Autobiography of Johnny Cash
I’m a fan. I have a few favourite songs (nothing unusual: Hurt, The Man Comes Around, I Walk the Line). When I’m in a mood, I can listen to his albums exclusively for a few days… he’s definitely in my musical top 10. I have great respect for singers-songwriters and he is one of the great ones. Not a pretty voice, but a strong one, and one having something to say.
My first encounter with the story of Cash’s life was in 2005, when Walk the Line hit cinemas, with excellent portrayal of the musician by Joaquin Phoenix. Recently, I’ve seen ReMastered: Tricky Dick & the Man in Black, a documentary about Cash’s meeting with Richard Nixon, when the later learned country musicians are more complicated than he thought 😉 And that is my view of Cash – a largely self-thought man of deep convictions, religious but very sensitive, able to translate the contradictory facets of American politics and history into his many great songs.
So, I added Cash’s autobiography to my Kindle library, read it… only to find it rather disappointing. It does not contradict what I thought about the guy, but his prose is nowhere need as good as the lyrics he wrote. Here, lack of formal training in writing showed. And while some of the worse moments of his life are mentioned, it’s still a bit of a morality tale. What I liked best was the early chapters, about his childhood in rural Arkansas during the Depression. It was tough. In general – listen to Cash, watch both the movie and the documentary, but this book is optional.
Brian Porter-Szücs Poland in the Modern World: Beyond Martyrdom
This is a serious book I’d recommend in paper, as there are some maps and charts. I loved it so much I bought it again, in hardcover. We might do a two-shot about this and another new book on Polish history, but probably not very soon.
Poland in the Modern World is a history of Poland since 1795 until now written by an American historian (but one that visits our country regularly and speaks very good Polish). I loved it, and I would recommend it to English-reading audience interested in learning something about this corner of Europe. Should this be the one book on Polish history for someone with limited time and some interest? I’d say so, but it’s even better if you know something already, perhaps about John Paul II, Lech Walesa or maybe the romanticism of Polish emigrants plotting anti-Russian uprisings while in exile in XIX and XX century Europe. Porter-Szücs is a great antidote to any theory about Poish exceptionalism 🙂
To a Pole like me, used to our traditional historiography that puts the nation in the centre of history, and firmly believes that Polish nation is so very special, this was extremely refreshing… I’m going to buy a few copies and distribute them among family and friends 🙂
Dan Abnett Horus Rising
Humble Bundle… cash sucking machine that convinces you you’ll save loads of money, while you’ll only ever gonna read/play/watch a fraction of what you pay for 😉 In two Warhammer 40K bundles I bought 44 ebooks, and I’m quite sure I’ll ever read 10, maybe 15 of them. But, it’s still worth it. And this one, the only read so far, was quite a bit of fun.
Not a very sophisticated novel, lacking the subversive humour of, say, Ciaphas Cain books, but a solid piece of space-military fiction with some character development and epic plot that is only signalled here in the first installation of Horus Heres cycle. I liked it a lot. I need things like that, and would Cain be that fun if not measured against all the other regular, earnest officers of the Emperor?
It’s a story of human Empire at the height of its glory, with the seeds of future conflicts already sown, and some of the protagonists realising reality is more complicated than they have been taught in officer school. Battles, military/civilian relations, and some ugly truths about war visible behind the imperial propaganda. It’s a book you can decide to take at face value, or dig deeper and appreciate that the situation is, morally and politically, quite complicated. Both ways are fun, with some great combat scenes and military humour 🙂
Sweet Silver Blues
Heh, I wonder when will my condition stabilize, and I I do want to finish the Malazan Saga this time, it really is superb. Right now I’m revisiting some of my favourite HP fanfics, on Kindle 😉