What are you reading? Jan 9, 2013

by: plf515

Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 06:57:36 AM EST

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.  

plf515 :: What are you reading? Jan 9, 2013
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Just finished up a book called (2.00 / 19)
"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. :)

Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

in this case though... (2.00 / 13)
I'd say "See the movie..."

[ Parent ]
You mean first, (2.00 / 3)
or just in general?  :)

Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

[ Parent ]
Thanks? lol! (2.00 / 2)
;)  I do want to see it, so maybe I will break my rule just this once.

Shake it like a Polaroid picture.

[ Parent ]
Am almost finished (2.00 / 16)
Greenblatt's The Swerve on how Lucretius changed our world.  

I've been looking at that one (2.00 / 15)
What do you think of it?

Enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.

Barack Obama 1/21/2013

[ Parent ]
Greenblatt is, to my mind, a very (2.00 / 14)
civilized writer with a great facility for language. Have always liked Lucretius and wanted to know more about him. So far, the book is about how Lucretius was forgotten and then rediscovered. It's a real page turner.  Greenblatt is very good at delineating the Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance worlds, how they interconnect and how they resonate today. Have just gotten to an analysis of the poem itself. Stay tuned!

[ Parent ]
Lucretius has had a major influence on my thinking (2.00 / 15)
I'm curious to read this from Greenblatt (having read plenty from him over the years). I HIGHLY recommend Lucretius' De Rerum Natura to literally anyone. It's not a difficult read. It's still very relevant. It's incredibly insightful and probably more influential than people would guess considering how deeply it influenced some of the British Romantic poets, particularly Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose essays on justice in turn influenced Gandhi (perhaps a lesser known fact, but one cited by no less than Gandhi himself). He also influenced the American Transcendentalists, particularly Emerson, if I recall.

Nice to meet another Lucretian here.

And thanks for the new Greenblatt recommendation as well. I've been holed up with a very different strain of Theorists and Philosophers lately... and I'm down deep in the rabbit hole of my psyche as a consequence; are my hems showing? Yikes!

[ Parent ]
OK (2.00 / 11)
You've sold me

::scurries off and adds both titles to her reading list::

Enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.

Barack Obama 1/21/2013

[ Parent ]
Reading (2.00 / 15)
"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.

Enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.

Barack Obama 1/21/2013

it is high on my list (2.00 / 12)
Reviews were stunningly good.

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter

[ Parent ]
So after reading that impressive list I'm supposed to admit (2.00 / 17)
I'm rereading various historical romances?

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

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

Well there's an answer for me before I even asked:Foner tnx nt (2.00 / 13)

[ Parent ]
Probably says more about me than the book. (2.00 / 13)
For whatever reason, I blame the change, I can't seem to concentrate on anything for more than five minutes.    Frustrating really.  And why I haven't written a post lately ... shiny object!  :)

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

[ Parent ]
My answer to you ended up at end of thread,Starts "persist.."nt (2.00 / 2)

[ Parent ]
up for another Lincoln ideas anyone? Opinions PBS Abolitionists? (2.00 / 17)
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?

re: civil war (2.00 / 12)
i'm now re-reading mcpherson's 'battle cry of freedom'.  it's pre-2000 (late eighties i think), but excellent.  

Earth is the best vacation place for advanced clowns. --Gary Busey

[ Parent ]
Team of Rivals (2.00 / 1)
I really enjoyed it. But I like DKG's style.  

[ Parent ]
Only re-reading stacks of favorites. (2.00 / 14)
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. :~)

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

Sir Terry is my all-time favorite writer (2.00 / 12)
Reading the Discworld series started a whole chain of events that literally completely changed my life and made it immeasurably better - got me out of Alabama, a divorce, a new husband. I am afraid to think where I'd be today had I never read Pratchett.

[ Parent ]
He is strikingly good at keeping it up (2.00 / 3)
Lots of fiction writers fail after awhile. Pratchett has yet to disappoint me, though I haven't read him in several years. Thanks for the reminder.

[ Parent ]
If anything, he's gotten better n/t (2.00 / 3)

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter

[ Parent ]
Which is especially remarkable considering (2.00 / 2)
his encroaching Alzheimer's. I think he's pushing to get as much on paper as possible while he still can.

Last summer, I watched his "Choosing to Die" documentary about the assisted suicide of Peter Smedley in Switzerland and it affected me deeply, especially Sir Terry's discussion of how difficult the choice is because it must be made while one is still rational enough to make it - this necessarily means cutting short the period remaining to you in which you still have a reasonably good quality of life.

I know that he has been working to get Britain to legalize assisted suicide, and I believe he has initiated at least the beginnings of the process for himself. I hope with all my heart that it's still a long time before he feels he must proceed. He is one of a kind.

[ Parent ]
He is a startlingly brilliant writer. (2.00 / 2)
The character development and flow in his books is breathtaking.

I resisted them for a long time despite recommendations. Lions and tigers and bears, oh my, and not my fancy. But he writes engaging stories that are simply fun while also deeply rich.

The Truth and Mort and several others cycle around the house. There are a number I have not read and I am in no hurry to. Some things are better savored.  

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
i picked up the star wars novels again (2.00 / 10)
for comfort reading, i guess.  i'm on book 6 in the x-wing series.  

but it's not my only reading.  

[ Parent ]
just downloaded Thinking Fast and Slow myself... (2.00 / 13)
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.

A Memory of Light, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (2.00 / 10)
I got my copy yesterday, so the last battle is underway and I'm sleepy this morning!

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

[ Parent ]
I keep meaning to get that, if only for the sake of closure (2.00 / 10)
Does it still sound like Jordan? I tried reading the "Dune" prequels by Brian Herbert written from his father's notes and the difference in voice was just too jarring for me.

[ Parent ]
Robert Jordan wrote large parts of the book (2.00 / 10)
And Sanderson worked closely with Jordan's wife who edited all the books. I can tell a difference in the Sanderson books, but  the story is carrying me along. I've read all of the books this last year (one of the advantages of being a late comer to the series) so I have to finish it.

Love is the lasting legacy of our lives

[ Parent ]
Back over the summer I read his "Anathem" (2.00 / 10)
I had to restart it twice before I really understood what the hell was going on. That's normal for me with "far future" fiction settings. Once I got it, I enjoyed it.

[ Parent ]
The Diamond Age is fascinating (2.00 / 4)
But I don't know that he's ever written anything as excellent as Snow Crash.

[ Parent ]
A Universe From Nothing (2.00 / 14)
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!

Lord of the Rings - again (2.00 / 15)
Good for when I just want to fall out of the world for a while.

I am a complete fail (2.00 / 12)
I have never made it through Lord of the Rings. I'm trying again this year, and have gotten through The Hobbit and Fellowship, making this the farthest I've ever gotten. Taking a break before heading to the next volume.

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I have a poor imagination overall and an especially poor visual imagination. That makes it hard for me to read complex fiction like Lord of the Rings. In order to follow it, you need to build a world in your head and relate the characters and action to that world. I can't do that, and I tend to lose the thread.

This is probably why I so prefer non-fiction most of the time. When I do read fiction, I prefer "light reading" like Terry Pratchett or light (as opposed to dark) mysteries.

Enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.

Barack Obama 1/21/2013

[ Parent ]
i used to have LOTR built in my head (2.00 / 10)
but i liked peter jackson's world better, so i use it now.  but i make a few changes.  more women doing important stuff, for one.  

[ Parent ]
I am like you (1.62 / 8)
LOTR is not for me

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter

[ Parent ]
Meh'ed, (2.00 / 7)
with love and hope for your Growth and Understanding. ;~)

Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the LOTR  

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I see myself as being very non-visual (2.00 / 2)
And I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Hobbit  about eight times when I was very young. And I love Pratchett, though I agree he is less visual.

I see LotR as being more in the myth/fairy tale department. I tend to overall prefer novels that don't have tons of characters. I'm also perfectly comfortable with not finishing books that don't grab me. If LotR isn't your cup of tea, why try to make yourself read it? There could be something else out there that would knock your socks off.

I always keep a stash around of stuff that didn't float my boat the first time round. Sometimes they turn out to grow on me. But I always have to have something to read. I'm purely addicted :-)

[ Parent ]
It's the imagination deficit (2.00 / 1)
That I think is key.

I am very literal. I strongly suspect I have The Syndrome Formerly Known as Asperger's (hereafter to be called Autistic Spectrum Disorder). I've never bothered having it diagnosed (because why) but have resolved to schedule an evaluation this year.

Enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.

Barack Obama 1/21/2013

[ Parent ]
Oh and recently finished Connie Willis' "Impossible Things"... (2.00 / 9)
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.

She's the one who wrote the Doomsday Book (2.00 / 4)
about the time traveler and plague. That was just first rate. Thank you for reminding me of her.  

[ Parent ]
Doomsday Book was also excellent (2.00 / 1)
and To Say Nothing of the Dog is set in the near future of that same timeline and also features James Dunworthy. It is a bit more lighthearted than Doomsday Book but thoroughly enjoyable. The Titanic theme features strongly throughout, as it does in many of her works. She's another of my favorite authors.

[ Parent ]
I'm in a pulp science fiction mood (2.00 / 13)
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.

Reading the B-Team, too (2.00 / 6)
Do you ever go over to his blog?  

"The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

[ Parent ]
Yes, I go there daily (2.00 / 2)
Grrrr, w.r.t the B Team, however.  I didn't download the pdf, I was just reading it from the link evidently and that disappeared this morning.  I did download the .prc file, but I still haven't figured out how to make my ipad Kindle app see the file.  I know it's got to be easy, and I know I've done it before, but for now I'm kind of stymied.

[ Parent ]
besides the star wars novels ;-) (2.00 / 12)
i finished
Little Heathens http://www.little-heathens.com/  - she grew up in rural iowa about 40 years before i did.  i am going to recommend it to my stepmom.  

also read through (quickly and cried a lot)
Not Becoming My Mother - this author, Ruth Reichl is famous for cooking stuff, I think.

next to pick up, on behalf of my son, is
Bright Not Broken https://www.facebook.com/brigh... on gifted kids w/ other special needs, and
Smart but Scattered, on executive skills.  http://specialchildren.about.c...

i hope i can learn about the links here.  

I tend to be reading several books at a time. (2.00 / 9)
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. :)


Mary Roach is so fun! (2.00 / 7)
Adore "Stiff"... hysterical and yet, so creepy. In a good way.

Neil Gaiman, in my dreams of another life when I have time to read. My son's reading him now though, w00.

[ Parent ]
Stiff was an interesting read. (2.00 / 6)
Not a dinner table book though!

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter

[ Parent ]
I actually read Roach out of chronological order... (2.00 / 6)
started with Bonk, then Spook, now Stiff.

I find Neil Gaiman to be a fun read...and have ever since Sandman.

Of my current readings...it is a re-read that I am most enjoying. 28 Barbary Lane (a tales of the city omnibus) just makes me smile. It really is like visiting old friends.

I always find time to read (heck, I read on the john! though, I guess that might be a guy thing?)...and I have always been a voracious reader. I'm always looking for some new/good to pick up...which is why I am thrilled to see this series posted here.  :)


[ Parent ]
I loved, loved, loved (2.00 / 4)
the Tales from the City series. Read them about 20 years ago - could be time to revisit. My sister read them and loved them so much that she made a point of buying the series when she returned to Norway after visiting us. Loaned them out to select friends, who fell in love with them just as much as we did. :)

[ Parent ]
Do you read while you are eating? (2.00 / 3)
I do but feel vaguely guilty about it.

[ Parent ]
If eating alone, sometimes... (2.00 / 4)
but, I am married...so making a habit of it would be a dangerous endeavor indeed.  /grin


[ Parent ]
I'm a hermit myself (2.00 / 2)
But I could give off reading while eating if there was  somebody to talk to. Especially somebody who did good work in the context of endeavors I respect, and liked the work and liked talking about it.  I actually know some people like that, though I haven't met most of them in person. That could change!

[ Parent ]
When I am alone, sure. n/t (2.00 / 1)

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter

[ Parent ]
working on two, but slowly, with too many houseguests (2.00 / 7)
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.

Reading The Revenge of Geography (2.00 / 5)
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.  

"The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

That's very true (2.00 / 3)
Looking at rivers and other water access helps to frame a lot of history.

[ Parent ]
There was an article in Scientific American (2.00 / 2)
perhaps a decade ago.

Geographers had divided the Earth into small patches (1 square mile, I think) and looked at three things: GDP per capita, distance to a navigable waterway (river or ocean) and climate (on some standard scale where there were I think 6 climates).

The two latter factors explained a huge amount of the variance in the first.  

"Most people worry about their own bellies and other people's souls when we all ought to worry about our own souls and others' bellies" Israel Salanter

[ Parent ]
so glad this is here too! (2.00 / 5)
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.

Reading & listening (2.00 / 5)
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.  

Kim Harrison is another of my guilty pleasures (0.00 / 0)
I'm waiting for the Kindle version of the latest Hollows book to come down a bit in price before I buy it though.

[ Parent ]
I liked "The Time Traveller's Wife" (2.00 / 3)
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.

It was a good book that did not translate well to film... (2.00 / 4)
the movie left one feeling vaguely 'ick' in that 'watching a pedophile' sort way.


[ Parent ]
Thanks Kysen, that's interesting (2.00 / 3)
I did note that the author was treading a tightrope, but I thought she pulled it off quite well. Leave it to Hollywood to screw it up, sigh.

[ Parent ]
Persist; I am just getting back to focus after a migraine phase (2.00 / 2)
That's my experieince. Round thanksgiving, I could not read a popular history's acknowledgements. Kearns Goodwin was the transition. And it worked.  

Meant for Happy in Vt. above re: Foner nt (2.00 / 2)

[ Parent ]
One thing that he poins out (0.00 / 0)
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.  

"The story so far:
In the beginning the Universe was created.
This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move."
― Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe


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