For those who are new … we discuss books. I list what I’m reading, and people comment with what they’re reading. Sometimes, on Sundays, I post a special edition on a particular genre or topic.
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I’ve written some book reviews on Yahoo Voices:
Book reviews on Yahoo
Dead Souls by Ian Rankin. The latest in the John Rebus series of Scottish noir crime novels. I like this series and this is one of the best in it. But it’s dark dark dark. Child abusers, serial murderers etc. Full review soon on Yahoo Voices. full review
Far from the Tree: Parents, children and the search for identity by Andrew Solomon.
The title comes from the phrase “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree”. This book is about apples (children) who did fall far from the tree (parents). This book got amazing reviews and it grabbed me from the opening:
“There is no such thing as reproduction. When two people decide to have a baby, they engage in an act of production, and the widespread use of the word reproduction for this activity, with its implication that two people are but braiding themselves together, is at best a euphemism to comfort prospective parents before they get in over their heads”
I don’t agree with all that Solomon says, but this is a book to make you think about deep questions of humanity. Full review soon on Yahoo Voices.
Rayburn: A Biography by D. B. Hardeman. A very admiring look at Sam Rayburn, former speaker of the House. Hardeman has an odd but readable style, mostly in that he overuses this structure “the” (adjective) (state adjective) form (e.g. “the crusty Texan”, “the wily Missourian”) to an extent that’s almost comical. Rayburn
Ghostman by Roger Hobbs. The protagonist of this excellent first novel is a “ghost man”. He is part of a criminal enterprise of high level thieves (they steal large amounts at each crime) and his specialty is the ability to become other people – adapt their mannerisms, their voice, their signature and so on. In his spare time he translates books from Latin and Greek into various modern languages. Fascinating. Full review soon on Yahoo Voices.
Cooler Smarter: Practical tips for low carbon living 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 Kahneman. 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.
On politics: A history of political thought from Herodotus to the present by Alan Ryan. What the subtitle says – a history of political thought.
He, she and it by Marge Percy. Near future dystopian SF set on Earth.
A Most Dangerous Book by Christopher Krebs. How a short book by the Roman Tacitus had a dangerous life, culminating in its use by the Nazis to support their ideas of lebensraum and “Ein volk, Ein reich, ein fuhrer”.
The Ringworld Engineers by Larry Niven. The sequel to Ringworld in which Louis Wu, Chmee and the Hindmost return to Ringworld, which has become unstable.
Measurement by Paul Lockhart. About mathematics and, especially, how it should be taught and learned. Lockhart is wonderful; his first book A Mathematician’s Lament was, in my view, the best books on teaching math ever written.