Patterico's Pontifications

4/28/2019

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 8:50 pm



It’s been a while since I’ve done a “What I’ve Been Reading” post. I thought I’d post a few of the titles and give brief reactions.

Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn’t by Edward Humes. I have read many books by Humes. He’s a good writer and smart, and makes some interesting points, but his overwhelming antagonism towards the criminal justice system, police, and prosecutors is distracting. I read the book because I know some of the participants and something about the case described.

Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions by Jonathan Hari. Hari has faced allegations of plagiarism, but the book was recommended by Sam Harris and I enjoyed it. Hari has a penchant for making one-sided arguments, however. His disdain for pharmaceuticals is understandable and may be correct, and his observations about the underlying causes of depression certainly have validity, but his polemic style can be off-putting. I ended up casting aside Hari’s Chasing the Scream after about 80 pages because it got boring and lost its credibility with its unrelentingly hyperbolic tone. Maybe I’ll return to it, but I doubt it.

Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion by Paul Bloom. I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed Bloom’s previous book Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil, but I liked it OK. I got both books after Bloom was recommended by Jonah Goldberg in a talk I saw him give at UCSB. Bloom’s title is designed to be a Hot Take, but his opposition to empathy depends upon a technical definition that is not always what people mean when they use the word. He spends a lot of time explaining this, and reminding the reader that he is not actually against compassion, sympathy, and many of the concepts that the term often connotes. Also, the two books use a lot of the same stories. I’d recommend reading “Just Babies” and skipping “Against Empathy.”

Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping by Robert Sapolsky. Very heavy on the science, particularly physiology, but interesting. If you forgot a lot of your high school physiology but find such things interesting, it’s a good book. It’s also a good reminder to meditate and get your equanimity in order.

The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values by Sam Harris. Some of these books deserve (and may receive) their own posts. I disagree with Sam Harris on his atheism, obviously, as well as his (to me) rather goofy and impossible-to-understand views on free will. But I admire much about his honesty and he has a lot of interesting things to say. Here, I’ll say mainly that the title is bad (and I think Sam might agree at this point): what he means by “science” is really what Jonathan Rauch meant by “liberal science” in his book Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought, Expanded Edition, which I also read recently and loved. Rauch’s view is that “liberal science” means a system of rational debate in which everything is decided by evidence and nothing is off the table. This one might merit its own post too. A great book that I don’t totally agree with but that opened my mind a lot.

Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines by Nic Sheff, and Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction by David Sheff. Great books. Saw the movie, which I really enjoyed and should have received more awards than it did.

Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House by Cliff Sims. Reviewed already, here.

A Man’s World, by Steve Oney. Still making my way through this one. A collection of portraits of manly men by my erstwhile acquaintance whom I have not seen in years, Steve Oney. Great guy and great book so far.

Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex among Apes by Frans de de Waal: I’m most of the way through this. A fascinating take on the social interactions of intelligent apes.

I finally finished The Chickenshit Club by Jesse Eisinger — a book I started in late 2017 on the recommendation of Ed from SFV (which, where did he go?). Good book that explains why there were so few prosecutions after the 2008 financial crisis.

Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious by Timothy Wilson. One of those books that was recommended by Amazon and looked interesting, so I got it. I liked it but I can’t say I found it to have a terribly profound impact on my worldview. I like the thesis: that a lot of analyzing goes on unconsciously and efficiently.

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure by Jonathan Haidt and FIRE President Greg Lukianoff, and Them: Why We Hate Each Other–and How to Heal by Ben Sasse (both affiliate links). I mentioned the Haidt book here and here and saw a lecture by him. I was accompanied at the lecture by our guest blogger Dana, and that was a treat. The Sasse book was excellent, as was his other book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis–and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance. Sasse is a big fan of gumption; it’s shocking that he wasn’t born in New England. I like him. He’s a good guy.

Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden, and A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea, by Masaji Ishikawa. Both books reviewed here.

I say all this partially by way of saying that I am finally tackling Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action, which is a 900-page monster. I think it will probably take me until July to finish it. I plan to finish off the series summarizing Bob Murphy’s summary of the book once I’m done, but I figure the summaries will mean more to me once I have read the whole thing.

It’s a masterful work, difficult to follow at times and wildly entertaining at others. I already have a couple of posts envisioned based on things Mises says about political and social affairs.

What have you guys been reading?

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

53 Responses to “What I’ve Been Reading Lately”

  1. Hello there.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  2. Fluff only for me, lately. I rediscovered a childhood (ok, teens) favorite, Anthony Boucher, and read everything by him again. His novels are mediocre at best (I read them anyway) but his short stories, of which I found two collections, are excellent. His “The Compleat Werewolf” will always be my favorite werewolf story I think, and his “They Bite” still raised goosebumps and at my age too.

    nk (dbc370)

  3. Hi Patterico. Search the archives of the Sam Harris podcast and find the ones with Paul Bloom. They are good you will enjoy them. I believe there are 2.

    By the way you might also like the very bad wizards podcast. Regards
    -Gil

    Gil (fc5ad1)

  4. Fiction. The real world is too annoying. Read every last Bosch book over the winter, in order, plus some of Connelley’s other work.

    Reread what I believe is the best SF book ever written: “A Deepness in the Sky” by Vernor Vinge. Endlessly inventive.

    Read Ben Bova’s “Triumph” about the world following a successful British plot to assassinate Stalin in April of ’45. Great premise, meh execution.

    Read “”The Name of the Wind” by Patrick Rothfuss, an excellent first book in a fantasy trilogy that’s only two books so far. I’ll wait to go on.

    REad Greg Benford’s “Timescape” (finally) and was disappointed.

    Read Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Red Moon” which is kind of a riff on a Heinlein book, but instead of libertarian economics he seems to favor some kind of Leftist magic bean theory. He does make the valid point that either the US or China will own the Moon shortly.

    Currently trying to read Elizabeth Bear’s new “Ancestral Night” but I can decide if it’s brilliant or terrible.

    Have so MANY books on the list though. Maybe I’ll tackle Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther books next (police procedurals set in Nazi Germany).

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  5. *can’T decide

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  6. Beyond freedom and dignity by b.f. skinner. this place is like a skinner box!

    lany (52d01d)

  7. Fiction:

    George R.R. Martin’s thin excuse for why he hasn’t finished his Game of Thrones series, a thin prequel called Fire & Blood: 300 Years Before A Game of Thrones (A Targaryen History) (2019). Only for true fans.

    S.M. Stirling’s Black Chamber (A Novel of an Alternate World War Book 1) (2018), a spy thriller set in an alternative universe in which William Howard Taft dies in office unexpectedly, leaving Teddy Roosevelt and his Progressive Republicans to sweep up the 1912 GOP nomination over the stalwarts; the united Party defeats Wilson, promptly invades and annexes Mexico, and begins vigorous preparations for American entry into WW1, which forms part of the heroine’s backstory for how she comes to be crossing the Atlantic with a German spy on an American dirigible. It’s all highly improbable, but self-conscious about its cliches and melodrama, clever, and occasionally pretty funny, so it was a zero-effort read that I decline to feel very guilty about.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  8. Nonfiction:

    Nick Bunker’s Young Benjamin Franklin: The Birth of Ingenuity (2018), a terrific biography focusing on the largely ignored first third of Franklin’s life — before he became a world-class scientist, and then a world-class politician and diplomat. Yes, you knew he was a printer, but there’s a lot more to know; and the whole book is an illuminating and fairly granular look into pre-Revolutionary America.

    Steven T. Usdin’s Bureau of Spies: The Secret Connections between Espionage and Journalism in Washington (2018), a useful rebuttal to those who deny or minimize the extent to which American journalists willingly and knowingly peddled propaganda and intelligence on behalf of the USSR from the 1920s forward.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  9. One of the things I loved about the Franklin book was its explanation of the Franklin family trade in England before emigrating to the American colonies: Franklin’s grandfather and father were both dyers, which tradename is also my family surname. Bunker makes the case that as physical chemists of their age, they were inclined by nature to experimentation and observation and transmission/retention of knowledge, not quite yet in the “scientific method” but a useful and natural precursor to it among Franklin’s eventual contemporaries as “natural philosophers.”

    Beldar (fa637a)

  10. Yes, I also read Black Chamber last year. The sequel, “Theater of Spies”, comes out May 7.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  11. Recently finished ‘Operation Paperclip – The Secret Intelligence Program That Brought Nazi Scientists To America’ by Annie Jacobsen— it is both enlightening– and darkly complex, particularly to anyone who embraces the concept of ‘allegiance ruled by expedience’ as a means to an end as government policy. And revisiting reads of two other ‘old friends’– about done getting through ‘Lost Moon’ by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger [BTW, if you found the film good and never read the book, you should; it’ll blow you away; much more detailed w/events and accuracies yet not too technical for the lay person to follow.] And just cracked into a second read of an older book, ‘Apollo- The Race To The Moon’ by Charles Murray [yes, THAT Charles Murray] and Catharine Bly Cox. Published in 1989, Murray and Cox focused on flushing out detailed back stories from the spaceflight control teams; then an overlooked and long overdue perspective to be heard.

    If you see a pattern it’s purposed and deliberate. This is the year to return to the topic before it’s put back on the history shelves for another half-century. The resourcefulness, team work and ‘can-do’ attitudes displayed by the individuals and organizations within academia, government and industry as described in these books is refreshing to revisit; an era when America was honestly admired and respected around the world for truly doing great things, instead of merely stitching the phrase on a hat.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  12. “The Captain” by Geoffrey Shackleford
    George Thomas Jr. and his Golf architecture.
    Pretty boring if your not into old golf architects.

    mg (8cbc69)

  13. Beldar –
    Thanks for the tip on the Franklin book.

    mg (8cbc69)

  14. Thank you for this thread, Patterico.

    I’ve just finished Martin Gilbert’s In Ishmael’s House: A History of Jews in Muslim Lands. I suppose it is topical given the current discussions about how anti-Semitism as a phenomenon is expressed and whether it is on the rise generally.

    It’s an eye-opener. I was somewhat familiar with the curious mix of tolerance, discrimination, indifference, and outright oppression towards Jewish populations in much of the Muslim Middle East (and somewhat beyond), but the vignettes about what so many Jews contributed to their lands of origin, and the indignities they usually suffered, are haunting.

    Particularly so are the stories from immediately prior and after the birth of Israel. Some communities vanished almost overnight, with the residents travelling (frequently, fleeing) to Israel, the Americas, and even post-Holocaust Europe. It is apparent that in many cases this exodus damaged their home societies as much as it did the emigrating/evicted parties; it is also apparent that the wider Arab Middle East has not yet come to terms with their cruel displacement.

    There are a lot of fun factoids in the book. A favourite is that Cairo’s prestigious Al-Azhar – built as a place of education by the Shi’a Fatimid dynasty in around 970 AD – was, per Martin, formally made a university in 988 on the orders of Yaqub Ibn Killis, a Baghdad-born Jewish vizier.

    JP (b6bd56)

  15. I recommend “Blueprint,” by Nicholas Christakis.

    Interview about the book here:

    https://www.iheart.com/podcast/272-the-rubin-report-28252494/episode/the-evolutionary-origins-of-a-good-30839206/

    You will remember Dr. Christakis because of this, via Sam Harris:

    https://samharris.org/podcasts/facing-the-crowd/

    Bonus for nk—Dr. Christakis is very, very Greek.

    Simon Jester (e67ea7)

  16. Beldar: Steve Stirling writes great stuff, and does not suffer fools at all, let alone gladly. Have your read GRRM’s “Dying of the LIght”?

    nk: “They Bite” is just awesome. Sometimes I wish I could sit down with you and chat about F&SF.

    Simon Jester (e67ea7)

  17. Thank you, Simon. The surname Christakis denotes Cretan and/or Maniote origins as well.

    nk (dbc370)

  18. Kevin,
    My fluff included a dozen of the Bernie Gunther books. I wasn’t sure how many grains of salt I should take Kerr’s “research” with, but I’ll tell you, his depiction of the Greek Communists of that time in Greeks Bearing Greeks matched exactly what I knew about them.

    nk (dbc370)

  19. Yikes! Greeks Bearing Greeks Gifts.

    nk (dbc370)

  20. My fluff included a dozen of the Bernie Gunther books. I wasn’t sure how many grains of salt I should take Kerr’s “research” with, but I’ll tell you, his depiction of the Greek Communists of that time in Greeks Bearing Greeks matched exactly what I knew about them.

    Wrote a paper on the Greek Civil War some years ago, nk, albeit using entirely English-language sources. One of the takeaways was the KKE et al.’s routine kidnapping and indoctrination of adolescents for use as child soldiers. The Communists received a great deal of assistance in this and in and other respects from Tito’s Yugoslav government.

    Alas that sort of thing has a long pedigree, especially in the Balkans (there are more than a few descendants of the janissaries running around, I am sure). On the other hand I got the distinct impression that the KKE’s efforts were notable even by the standards of the region.

    JP (b6bd56)

  21. It was a chaotic time, JP.

    nk (dbc370)

  22. “I disagree with Sam Harris on his atheism…”

    I haven’t kept up with his thinking on the subject, but Harris always seemed to ignore the positives of religion….hope, inspiration for good, grounding….and exaggerate the evils….especially its role in regional and national conflict (not arguing that religious-based conflict doesn’t exist, just that nationalism and territorial ambition seem to be more important drivers). Harris is dogmatic on the topic. There are many schools of philosophy…why not be open to one that employs the supernatural, I wonder.

    That said….evidence of the supernatural is not exactly….overwhelming, so I can empathize with Harris’ exasperation. As a species, we want to believe that death is not the end, that we are here with a purpose, and that morality is anchored somewhere…but does this open us up to believe things that we readily discount in other people’s religions? Is the first century…and the writings that we have….reliable recordings of supernatural history….or are they self-interested hagiographies seeking to establish the divinity of Jesus?

    AJ_Liberty (ec7f74)

  23. Most actively (to the extent that the baby ever allows it):

    – “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” by Shoshana Zuboff

    Next Up:

    – “The Human Condition” by Hannah Arendt
    – “Discipline and Punish” by Michel Foucault

    On hold (halfway through each):

    – “American Slavery, American Freedom” by Edmund S. Morgan
    – “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”

    Leviticus (efada1)

  24. The Zuboff book is a frustrating one. She has insightful moments, but they seem few and far between at this point. The glaring problem with her book is that she fails to distinguish “surveillance capitalism” from “capitalism” in any meaningful way – while writing a polemic against the former that completely spares the latter from criticism. Also, her writing style is self-consciously flowery and overwrought.

    Leviticus (efada1)

  25. I recently finished “A Gentleman in Moscow”. I won’t give anything away other than to say that it is one of the most exquisitely told stories I have read. If you enjoy Russian history, classical studies, and true love in its most powerful iteration, read this! Also, read it before Hollywood gets their hands on it.

    Also, on a side note, for those of you who use Amazon Audible and listen to books (which I do), what plan do you use, and do you find yourself having to buy more credits before the monthly ones roll in? I’m continually lacking credits for new books to listen to, and have found that most of their freebies that I can listen to to fill in the gap are not too interesting.

    Dana (779465)

  26. Oh, also: “Stand Still Like the Hummingbird” by Henry Miller.

    Leviticus (efada1)

  27. the actor who played the kid in _beautiful boy_ has been tapped to play paul atreides in the next attempt to make a movie adaptation of Dune.

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  28. Non-fiction: Just finished “Dirt to Soil” by Gabe Brown. Topic is Restorative Agriculture. (Why sustain our current industrialized agriculture model?)

    Chris (0c8748)

  29. I still remember my consternation on opening day for the film of Dune In Newport Beach and seeing cheat sheets on all the seats. What a mess that was.

    Will follow up in a bit w recent reads….

    harkin (a741df)

  30. Dana, I second your description of “A Gentleman in Moscow.” Beautifully plotted, structured & paced, and composed. Exquisite is exactly the right word.

    And I never, never, expected that ending.

    ColoComment (b48a15)

  31. I used to read a book a week, lots of easy reading novels which I treated like going to the movies, or more seriously, biographies, WWII history. My dad got his masters in history at SMU and was teaching courses in Ohio while getting his PhD when he was offered a position in administration by a Navy buddy out here in CA in the 50’s. So he changed career course but maintained his love for history. (My dad is 95 and was in the US Navy North Pacific during WWII and he gave me his collection of biographies, US Civil War histories and WWII history particularly the Pacific campaign.).

    Reading is also a good way to let the stuff that doesn’t matter go.

    steveg (e7a56b)

  32. Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn’t by Edward Humes. I have read many books by Humes. He’s a good writer and smart, and makes some interesting points, but his overwhelming antagonism towards the criminal justice system, police, and prosecutors is distracting. I read the book because I know some of the participants and something about the case described.

    There was a similar story in Texas that became famous earlier because it looks like a case where an innocent man was executed partially becauuse texas Governor Rick Perry was just too closed minded to believe he could be innocent. (I think also all these meritless appeals we see have an effect on people)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cameron_Todd_Willingham

    There was a long New Yorker magazine story about that, since inccluded in a book:

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2009/09/07/trial-by-fire

    The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession (2010) by David Grann . It was made into amovie last year with the title Trial by Fire.

    Theer was also a book justifying the verdict.

    I aslso think that Preiddent Bill Clinton knew about this false arson science and used it as part of his coverup of the murder of the Branch Davidians in Waco. (the other part was hiding the true cause of teh fire – CS tear gas which became inflammable when its concentration was reduced,

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  33. Dana: i’m glad to see you’re back :)

    aphrael (e0cdc9)

  34. Thank you, aphrael.

    Dana, I second your description of “A Gentleman in Moscow.” Beautifully plotted, structured & paced, and composed. Exquisite is exactly the right word.

    And I never, never, expected that ending.

    ColoComment (b48a15) — 4/29/2019 @ 12:27 pm

    How funny, Colocomment, because I was going to be furious if that *wasn’t* the ending!

    Dana (779465)

  35. OT- Rosenstein Resigns.

    Now there’s a catchy book title. 😉

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  36. Well, I have different interests than most of you. I’m into the classics and don’t read much contemporary literature, mainly because so little of it is worth reading.

    But since Patterico asked, I’m currently reading The Western Canon, by Harold Bloom. He is an insightful scholar and critic. Over the summer, I plan to follow his studies in The Anxiety of Influence and Shakespeare and the Invention of the Human. Also, Why Read the Classics?, by Italo Calvino.

    But I am an eclectic reader, a liberal in the truest sense of the word (see the definition in the OED). So I’m also reading works like The Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious by Jung; The Origins and History of Consciousness, and The Great Mother, by Neuman. If I could get my hands on The Golden Bough by Fraser, I would be immersing myself in it, but that’s a seven-volume set that costs like $450. I contrast these with works like The Structure of Scientific Revolution, and the Copernican Revolution, by Kuhn; The Counter-Revolution of Science by Hayek; and various books on fractal geometry, chaos theory and complexity science, mixed with studies on Celtic art.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  37. I have been on a weird textbook-buying and -reading binge for the past few months.

    Modern Quantum Mechanics by J.J. Sakurai has been a real stand-out. I wish we’d used it when I first learned the subject. Highly recommended for anyone taking, or teaching, a graduate course in QM (yeah, I know…). Really, it should be comprehensible to anyone with a decent background in linear algebra.

    I normally read very little except history. The most recent non-physics books I’ve read were:

    The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 by Margaret MacMillan. Very readable, with some interesting new perspectives, but not really what I’d call exceptional.

    Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy, 1945-1975 by Max Hastings. Pretty solid survey of the whole war, and he doesn’t go easy on anyone, really. It’s fair to say he attributes the inability of South Vietnam’s leaders to lead as the nexus of inevitable defeat. French military incompetence and arrogance early in the conflict are documented in gratifying detail, and it is hard not to root for the morally gray Vietminh of 1954. He properly damns the later NVN leadership as the blood-soaked tyrants they were, but their iron grip on dissent and criticism allowed them to hide the many instances of their incompetence and cruelty, where SVN’s leaders could not. And while he acknowledges that Nixon and Kissinger inherited a fundamentally hopeless situation, he blames them for dragging the war out for years for (he says) nothing more than political expedience.

    Finally, I started reading Niall Ferguson’s The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook but couldn’t force myself to finish it. I loved every other book by Niall Ferguson that I’ve read, but sadly this one was awful. Trite, superficial, disjointed, and totally uninteresting. A big disappointment. Recommend The Ascent of Money, The War of the World or Civilization by the same author instead.

    P.S. The OP’s profligate use of *two dozen* hyperlinks, when the rest of us are cruelly limited to just four (4!) clearly highlights the violence inherent in the system.

    Dave (1bb933)

  38. I caught up on catch 22, which was really more about joseph heller’s view on the 50s, rather than his world war 2, naturally George Clooney will be playing one of the generals, in the hbo teleplay

    there was also another rushdie tale, Shalimar clan his attempt to approach the question of jihadism, that goes from world war 2 france, where the protagonist diplomat grew up, to 60s india, which the author surveyed in midnight’s children, to early 90s la,

    narciso (d1f714)

  39. hastings doesn’t do enough to address the archives that moyar surveilled re victory forsaken, that put the locus of the failure on the diem coup, yes third world regimes are likely corrupt, the Salvadorans were no great shakes, but they were able to survive without direct intervention, the supply lines through Cambodia, and laos, that weren’t challenged till 1970 and 1971, were key,

    narciso (d1f714)

  40. this was introduction to humes, 20 some years ago:

    http://www.edwardhumes.com/mississippi-mud

    narciso (d1f714)

  41. The Rosenstein Resignation, by Robert Ludlum.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  42. Nothing too highbrow.

    Various Rick Steves and lonely planet for planning my vacation this summer.

    Mongrel Mage by LE Modesitt. A fantasy doorstopper by a former member of the Reagan EPA. He writes some interesting sci-fi as well.

    Firstborn by Michelle West. Another Fantasy doorstopper. (I read quickly).

    A series of Victorian murder mysteries set in London. They are kind of half way between a cozy and a noir. London seems to have had a lot of prostitution in the late 1800s.

    90s Bych. (but spelled correctly). A sociological study of young women’s culture in the 90s by someone who was too young to experience it, was mostly on the wrong part of the country, and didn’t really do much research. I do not recommend.

    Nic (896fdf)

  43. @ Simon Jester, who asked (#16):

    Have you read GRRM’s “Dying of the LIght”?

    I haven’t. But I am, indeed, a true fan. What’s your recommendation and one-sentence review?

    @ Gawain’s Ghost, re your #36: What other commenters read, and choose to mention here, are interesting to me even when my own tastes are far afield.

    Based on the recommendations from Dana and ColoComment, I’ve ordered — through the Patterico’s portal, of course! — “A Gentleman in Moscow,” and also, provoked by the mentions by Kevin M, nk, and JP, the first of the Gunther books.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  44. The only things I’ve read from George R.R. Martin are Fevre Dream, which I cannot recommend highly enough as the best vampire novel since Bram Stoker’s Dracula to anyone who has not already read it; and the earlier Wild Cards books. The quality of the Wild Cards stories became catch-as-catch-can as the series went on, but the first one for sure is as good any sci-fi/fantasy being published these days.

    nk (dbc370)

  45. Matthew Stewart Nature’s God: the Heretical Origins of the American Republic

    Peter Adamson Classical Philosophy (A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps Volume 1)

    Henry James’s travel writings

    Rereading Jane Austen

    And, a very long term project (a couple of pages a day)
    https://www.artscroll.com/Books/9781422610800.html

    Which may seem specialized, but is worth dipping into by anyone curious about daily life in Israel around the time of Jesus because of all the background information it contains on agricultural practices, etc.

    Kishnevi (4777d8)

  46. The only things I’ve read from George R.R. Martin

    His first four in the Song of Ice and Fire (GoT) were quite good actually. Book 5 was rather a slog, advancing the story not all that much. I wonder if there will ever BE a Book 6.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  47. @Beldar I just ordered The Annotated Emerson. I needed a copy of it to go with The Annotated Walden. I truly believe that Emerson and Thoreau are two of the most significant writers in American history, above Whitman, Twain, Faulkner, and Frost.

    How I love Amazon. I’ve built quite the personal library over the last twenty years, stacked with some rare volumes like facsimile editions of the First Folio, Hamlet (Q2) and the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. There is no way I could have been able buy most of the books in my library were it not for Amazon. I have more books than I can read! But then I’m obsessive/compulsive, following Erasmus: “When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes.”

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  48. Mostly fiction–lots of mysteries and police procedurals, but I did pick up a very short book (almost a pamphlet) by Jay Rayner called My Dining Hell which is a group of his restaurant reviews on some of the worst places he’d ever eaten in Great Britain. As I love reading his reviews in The Guardian (the only thing I read in The Guardian), this was a fun and quick read.

    Rochf (877dba)

  49. I read a lot of different things but I’ve been reading recently two different 5 and 7 – or maybe it is 6 and 9 advance reader copies of science fiction type books. (There was a third also 25 years old or so by now maybe not an advance readers copy) I bought tehm all this year for $1.

    They are: The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells (from 2013)

    And “The Revisionists” That one has a plot too complex for the writer. There is an impossible amount of action violence there, and too many forces acting independently, and a lot of things remain a mystery at the end of the book. You wonder why the author resolves anything.

    The first one at least you can sort of follow – it’s not time travel because the other lives are not in the past of the 1985 Greta Wells, but they are not disconnected either. Like a lot of good science fiction, besides normal plot developments, there are some twists on the way things work, and figuring out all of that is interesting. The author makes some mistakes, including having Pearl Harbor interrupt a Dodgers game. He also has a character speaking about the possibility of a draft. There was already a draft, since 1940. I guess his historical research wasn’t quite that good.

    The unusual thing about this book is that the latest Greta Wells (who is the narrator of the book) is not in the present. This book was published in 2013, yet the “current” Greta Wells is from 27 years earlier. It is possible that this book had been germinating in the mind of Andrew Sean Greer since 1985, and since he started thinking about the mid-1980’s he continued till he actually wrote the book..

    Great Wells has some of the same people – or analogues of them – in each universe, except that some of them are dead. It seems like the other Greta Wellses are real, and move to the other universes when she moves between them. The ending is unsatisfactory.

    I’m kind of interested in whether any of the other books those authros wrote is good.

    I find the covers of pre-harcover paperbacks often have the best design.

    Sammy Finkelman (102c75)

  50. ahem, I think I recommended Bernie Gunther, once or twice, yes the revisionists is an interesting one, along with kim Harrison’s stand alone series,

    narciso (d1f714)

  51. Breaking, per WAPO: Mueller ‘bayonets’ Barr; told America’s AG his “memo’ failed to fully capture the context, nature and substance’ of Mueller’s probe.

    Film at 11.

    “You’d be better advised to watch what we do, not what we say.” — John Mitchell, 1969, Nixon AG, convicted & imprisoned Watergate felon, 1975.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  52. ahem, I think I recommended Bernie Gunther, once or twice

    One reason it’s on my to-do list. Haven’t got to it yet, but “March Violets” IS on my Kindle.

    Kevin M (21ca15)

  53. Thanks for the recommendation. Just finished “Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn’t” on Audible. Well written. Objective presentation with valid criticisms of some of the impediments inherent in our criminal justice system. I especially appreciated the author’s analysis of the impact of cognitive bias on investigators, as well as the lack of foundation that underpin some of the “scientific” evidence presented to fact finders (i.e. not following the Scientific Method), with DNA evidence being the obvious exception.

    Advocaat (0eb1b5)


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