Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

What are you reading? Jan 9, 2013

This is cross-posted from big orange Satan, where it is a long-running feature.

I list what I am reading, with comments and (sometimes) links.

You can do the same in comments.

If you like to trade books, try BookMooch

I’ve written some book reviews on: Yahoo Voices

Just finished

The van Rijn method by Poul Anderson. The first volume of collected stories that make up Anderson’s Polesotechnic League, when mankind spans the universe.

Now reading

Cooler Smarter: Practical tips for low carbon by the scientists at Union of Concerned Scientists, a great group. These folk make sense, concentrating on the changes you can make that have the biggest impact with the least effort.

Thinking, fast and slow by Daniel Kahnemann.  Kahneman, most famous for his work with the late Amos Tversky, is one of the leading psychologists of the times. Here, he posits that our brains have two systems: A fast one and a slow one. Neither is better, but they are good at different things. This is a brilliant book: Full of insight and very well written, as well.

What hath God wrought? by Daniel Walker Howe. Subtitled “The transformation of America 1815-1848. I am reading this with the History group at GoodReads.  This is very well written, and does a good job especially with coverage of the treatment of Blacks and Native Americans.

The hard SF renaissance ed. by David G. Hartwell.  A large anthology of “hard” SF from the 90’s and 00’s. I think Hartwell takes SF a bit too seriously, but the stories are good.

Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by Jon Meachem.  An admiring look at Thomas Jefferson and his need for power.

The irrationals by Julian Havil.  The history of irrational numbers, nicely presented; not for the mathematically naive (lots of calculus).

On politics: A history of political thought from Herodotus to the present by Alan Ryan. What the subtitle says – a history of political thought.  

Just started

Snakes can’t run by Ed Lin

A mystery/police procedural set in NYC’s Chinatown in the 1970s. “Snakes” is a slang term for illegal immigrants.  


  1. kirbybruno

    “The Good Lawyer” and am about to start “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Slayer”. I hope it reads as fun as it sounds! I did not see the movie, I hate seeing movies first, but that’s just me. 🙂

  2. iriti

    “Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity” by Andrew Solomon

    The book explores what he calls “horizontal identities”, which are those which make us different from rather than the same as our parents and siblings. He covers identities that may be considered disabilities such as hearing impairment, autism, Down Syndrome as well as positive identities such as children who are prodigies. He also looks at identities that are simply differences, such as transgender kids.

    He also talks about parents of criminals as well as moms raising kids conceived of rape.

    The book explores both the joys and pains of raising a child who fits in the world far differently than their parent(s).

    I’m just digging into it – I’ve finished 3 sections.

  3. HappyinVT

    I’m rereading various historical romances?

    Started Eric Foner’s Lincoln but just can’t settle into it.

  4. BlueStateRedhead

    1. Goodwin’s Teamo’Rivals done.I have not read any Civil War history since early 2000s. Lots of catching up to do. Anyone?

    2. Tried watching PBS Abolitionists last night. The tableau enactments try my patience. I like the I guess now old fashioned Burns document-based documentary. bailed after five minutes. Am I wrong?

  5. Have several Discworld books located in loos for grabbing and page-turning.

    A couple of Donald Jack’s “Bandy Papers” series, WWI Canadian flying humor historical subtlety classics of all time. Have all of them including several first editions.

    Otherwise, what I am reading is you. :~)

  6. bubbanomics

    I’ve schlogged through some of Kahneman’s papers.

    I’ve also been working my way through Neal Stephenson’s older stuff… snowcrash, the big U, and I’m towards the tail end of zodiac.

  7. Via Chicago

    A Universe From Nothing by Lawrence Krauss. And just previously a book called Why Does The World Exist by Jim Holt. The former deals strictly with science while the latter discusses scientific, philosophical and religious theories.

    I’m so happy that science books written for the layperson are becoming such a popular genre. I love physics but cannot even come close to understanding the complex math associated with quantum mechanics and cosmology.  I find myself presently enthralled with these topics, and especially where they overlap – which is all over the place. There are plenty of books in this area these days.

    Ever since I was young I’ve been fascinated / somewhat haunted by the concepts of nothing and infinity. When I was younger I viewed nothing as empty space, but now I understand that space is a thing. And true nothingness is no space, no time. So nothing is not like a universe with no planets, stars, radiation, gasses, etc, it’s truly nothing.  

    That makes me want to learn more about the beginning – the big bang, and the exponential expansion of space at the very beginning of our universe. And how the universe can have a net energy of zero and still have stuff.

    The Krauss book goes into depth on these topics, and the different theories of the flat, accelerating universe and how it could have started with negative pressure and matter being created from quantum fluctuations at the time of expansion. Spectacularly, this means that something smaller than an atom probably became the size of our universe today and the irregularities within that small space is why we ended up with clumps that turned into stars and galaxies. It’s so spectacular that theories developed over a hundred years ago have in some cases been confirmed by measurements we’ve only had the technical ability to make very recently.  

    Albert Einstein found in general relativity that we should have an accelerating, expanding universe but refused to believe it. He inserted what he called a “cosmological constant” to his equations which was just a number he developed that would force his equations to show a stable, stationary universe. Later in his life he called this his “biggest blunder.”

    However, in recent years his cosmological constant turns out to very closely match the energy of dark energy, which was only discovered in the 1990’s. Turns out he was onto something. Not surprising.

    All that said with the understanding that I’m not a scientist, my knowledge is limited and recreational!

  8. ceriboo

    and “To Say Nothing of the Dog” both also re-reads. I read my copy of TSNOTD so many times it fell apart and I had to replace it. Twice.

  9. sarahnity

    So I’m reading: Kris Longknife: Furious

    I just started John Scalzi’s Human Division: Episode 1 The B-Team, which may not exactly be pulp, but it’s a neat concept of making an episodic novel.

    I’ve also picked up 2 “forgotten works” by authors I generally really like and have discovered why they were forgotten.  They are not very good.  I’d stay away from For King and Country by Linda Evans & Robert Asprin and The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  I will eventually finish both, or die trying, I’m sure, but please don’t repeat my mistake.

  10. Kysen

    One on bedside table (read near nightly).

    One in the ‘small room’ (read only a few pages at a time).

    One on my desk (read when procrastinating)

    One in my car (while she shops, I read).

    One in the den/kitchen (read when just chillin’).

    And one in my travel case (can take a year or more read since I only read it during free time when traveling).

    Oh, and I have a Kindle (read when I remember I have a Kindle).

    Seems that I am currently on a ‘re-read’ kick…visiting old friends. /grin

    So, right now, in no particular order:

    28 Barbary Lane: A “Tales of the City” Omnibus – Armistead Maupin

    The Traveler – John Twelve Hawks

    Don’t Know Much About Mythology – Kenneth Davis

    Salt: World History – Mark Kurlansky

    Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers – Mary Roach

    Blue Horizon – Wilbur Smith

    Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman

    Thank you for bringing this series to the Moose, plf515…I have always enjoyed reading it in orange. 🙂

  11. American in Bangkok

    for much reading time (this is not a complaint though!)

    The Righteous Mind:  Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt – I’m initially a bit skeptical about the premise but my goddaughter’s father highly recommended it, and sent it to my Kindle, so we’ll give it a go….  I’m only a chapter in so we’ll see!


    Confession of a Buddhist Atheist by Stephen Batchelor.  I really enjoyed his Buddhism Without Beliefs and this next seems more autobiographical about his journey, but I haven’t had time to do more than read the intro yet.

  12. SheltieMan

    by Robert Kaplan. It’s about how physical geography has played and still plays a big part in geopolitics, even though we don’t pay much attention to it anymore.

    WHERE countries are and the geography explains a lot about human history, politics and warfare.  

  13. Jk2003

    i am reading The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst

    historical spy novel set in paris and other european cities just at the start of WWII.  very easy, interesting read.  someone suggested it in the what are you reading thread at DKos and apparently he has 10 more of these spy novels set in the same period all over europe.  i am enjoying it enough where i will pick up another and check it out.

    i tend to read the classics or big novels but stuff like this is a great way to cleanse the palate after reading more “heavy” stuff.  

    i am a fiction reader – i like the escape.  i will read almost anything – drama, science fiction, historical fiction.  i just like getting lost in a big deep book.

    it seems to have rubbed off on my daughter and i couldn’t be happier.

  14. asimbagirl

    There are points in my day where I am able to listen to a book. During my commute to and from work, or while making dinner, for example. So I’m listening to Dead Witch Walking for the second time. As far as reading, I’m reading War for the Oaks when I want fiction and Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. The Supreme Court by Jeff Shesol when I want brain food.  

  15. Miep

    a great deal. It’s a charming story, but what impressed me the most was the required non-linear plot construction. Overall a great read. Now I am gradually making my way through Wolf Hall.

  16. BlueStateRedhead

    That’s my experieince. Round thanksgiving, I could not read a popular history’s acknowledgements. Kearns Goodwin was the transition. And it worked.  

  17. SheltieMan

    Much of Russian history and their mindset can be explained by the geography of the country. It’s mostly a vast plain with only a few natural barriers like the Urals, and virtually landlocked besides. It makes them very nervous about their borders – too easy to invade.  

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