Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Vacation reading list

I've done a lot of reading over the past couple of weeks, so have a lot of books to recommend.

First up is Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons in Life, Love, and Language by Deborah Fallows. This is a fascinating book even if you aren't trying to learn Mandarin. In it, Ms. Fallows takes one aspect of the language and writes about broader cultural issues. I found the section on the differences between perceived politeness of different cultures to be particularly interesting.

Riddle of the Labyrinth: The Quest to Crack an Ancient Code by Margalit Fox is next in line. This was a fairly random grab off the library shelf when I was browsing one day and I unexpectedly fell in love with it. It says a lot for the author that she was able to make the work of decoding Linear B into a fascinating read. I was fascinated both by the characters involved and by the linguistics behind Linear B.'s decipherment. I think I read this book in about a 24 hour period I was so interested. Highly recommended.

You'll start to see a theme here with my next book, Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget it by Gabriel Wyner. I actually loved this book so much that I will probably buy my own copy of it. It is actually so much more than just about learning a language, Mr. Wyner touches on how our memory works, memory systems, language systems, and a host of other things. I was so excited about it that J. picked it up when I was done because he wanted to read it to. From a practical viewpoint, his system for language learning makes so much sense to me. Plus, the book directed me to my newest favorite website, lang-8.com. You can sign-up for free and then you practice writing in the language you are learning. Once you submit your writing, you receive corrections from native speakers. I haven't used it very much yet, but the feedback I have received has been hugely helpful. (Plus, I just learn best through writing. It's one reason I keep up this blog... so I know what I think.) There is a point system, so that you correct English learner's writing to earn points and that pushes your writing closer to the top of the list to be corrected. I actually really enjoy doing the correcting. It's working great for French, which I am renewing, but I am a bit stymied by Mandarin because I still haven't figured out how to write Mandarin characters on my computer. Suggestions are welcome.

It hasn't all been linguistics and languages, though. I am finishing up a mystery series set in Britain during the Roman occupation written by Ruth Downie. They are extremely well done and the setting becomes a part of the story without the reader being overly aware of it. I find historical fiction to be a little tricky because done poorly, I am constantly aware of the author's didactiveness in showing me all they have learned about the period, but I don't find that in these books. They're good stories with interesting characters. The main character is a doctor in a Roman legion, Gaius Petreius Ruso, who becomes an unwilling investigator in each of the books. The first in the series is Medicus, with five more following. I'm hoping she will write more.

Lastly, we all enjoyed our recorded book during the driving part of our vacation. We had started the Keepers series, and I found the second book, City of Lies, by Lian Tanner on CD. It was good, perhaps not as good as the first, Museum of Thieves, but still enjoyable. A warning, though... it ends with a terrible cliff hanger. I now need to go to the library and find the third book so we can see how it all ends. I imagine that there will be a bit of fighting over who gets the book first and who gets to read it next if I can only find one copy.

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