Khadaji’s Whatcha Reading Thread - May 2022 edition

Finished Fugitive Telemetry: The Murderbot Diaries, by Martha Wells, which I enjoyed.

Now I’m reading Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science, by Carol Kaesuk Yoon.

Ravenna: Capital of Empire, Crucible of Europe Judith Herrin

A history of the Italian city of Ravenna, from about 400 AD to 900 AD when it was the capital of the Western Roman empire, and then a key city under control of Constantinople. It was notable for the churches built in this time, which were beautifully decorated with mosaics, many reproduced in the book.

Unfortunately the book is written in a very dry academic style and a lot of it centers around obscure theological arguments that did not interest me much at all.

Only recommended if you are really into detailed European history.

I finished reading Faithful Place by Tana French. Life in the tenements of Dublin–reminiscent of Angela’s Ashes in its own way. The writing is good if sometimes a little over the top and the characters come across as very real. Depressing on almost every level but overall well worth the read. Certainly several notches better than her The Searcher, likewise depressing, which I read and wrote about in March or April.

Allow me to highly recommend: Amazon - The Annotated Hobbit: J.R.R. Tolkien, Douglas A. Anderson: 9780618134700: Books. Richly illustrated, with explanations and backstory for lots of stuff you might otherwise ignore or miss, and it includes a reprint of “The Quest of Erebor” from Unfinished Tales, in which Gandalf explains to Frodo, many years later, what was really going on with Bilbo and the Dwarves. Very, very good stuff.

Christopher Tolkien turned me off of the annotated editions. I’m surprised he never got around to publishing the annotated versions of his dad’s shopping lists before he died. Although he did give us Children of Hurin, so there’s that.

I gave up on Cryptonomicon after 10 pages. The first equation triggered my severe math aversion and made me question if I wanted to slog through another 900 page Stephenson doorstop. I did not.

FWIW, I don’t believe Christopher Tolkien had anything to do with this book.

Just started listening to Silverview by John Le Carré. The author completed it in 2014, but requested that it be published after his death. He died in 2020.

Finished Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science , by Carol Kaesuk Yoon, which was interesting.

Now I’m reading Alternate Peace, edited by Steven H Silver and Joshua Palmatier. It’s an anthology of alternate history short stories where the divergent point is set during peacetime.

Righteous Troublemakers by Al Sharpton.

Finished Labyrinth by Bill Pronzini, the 6th Nameless Detective book. Pronzini is definitely getting better, the emphasis is on the mystery so most of the characters are pretty two dimensional, but it was an interesting read nevertheless.

I am reading The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison. A really engaging Fantasy tale about the exiled son of an Emperor who is forced to take the throne when everyone ahead of him in succession is killed. Draws you in from the first page and creates an entire new world effortlessly. I am halfway through and really like it so far.

Finished Alternate Peace , edited by Steven H Silver and Joshua Palmatier, an alternate history anthology of which the best story was “Or, the Modern Psyche”, by Brian Hugenbruch. The diverging point is the eruption of Mount Tambora taking place in 1846, thirty years after its actual eruption, with major effects on the present day.

Now I’m reading Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (And How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple) by Jeffrey Kluger.

I finished Clive Cussler and Paul Kemprecos’ White Death, an old Kurt Austin yarn I hadn’t read before. A typical Cussler Guilty Pleasure.

Now on to Rachel Maddow’s Blowout. Very good so far.

After that (and as bedside reading) I’ve going through Rebecca Rupp’s How Carrots Won the Trojan War – a wonderfully provocative title for a book on vegetables and foodways with lots of weird ephemera.

After that, possibly the volumes of Livy or Plutarch I picked up at a recent book sale. I’m not sure I’m ready for the used Cussler I picked up yet.

On audio, I’ve finished Stephen King’s The Institute and am almost finished with Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs’ latest Agent Pendergast novel, Bloodless. As I’ve said, like Cussler, if they don’t make you say “Oh, come ON now!” at least once in the course of the book. This one’s got several such moments. It begins with a somewhat fictionalized account of Daniel Cooper’s (so-called D.B. Cooper) hijacking of an airplane, then rapidly moves on to modern-day vampiric killings in Savannah, and manages to connect the two with a wonderfully loopy interpretation of what happened to Cooper.
Not sure what audiobook I’ll go to next, but I need one soon.

Finished Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (And How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple) by Jeffrey Kluger, which was okay. I would’ve liked it better if I hadn’t already read most of the information elsewhere.

Now I’m reading The Star Fox by Poul Anderson.

Started Jennifer McMahon’s The Children on the Hill. It’s the story of two children with a happy childhood, being raised by their grandmother, who is the director of a psychiatric hospital. Then one day she brings home a weird little girl… This is billed as a modern take on Frankenstein. Is the author really implying that the grandmother reanimated this little girl? I’m not sure yet.

I just got back from a long weekend trip and got a lot of reading done, finishing these four books:

David Sedaris’s second collection of diary entries, A Carnival of Snackery. Pretty good, although not his best. There’s lots about his book tours, family visits and his favorite hobby: picking up trash by the roadside near his home in England. It ends before his father’s death last year, which I’m sure he wrote a lot about.

Star Trek: The New Voyages, a 1976 collection of fanfic edited by Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath, with some surprisingly good pieces about Kirk, Spock, McCoy et al.: “The Enchanted Pool,” “The Face on the Barroom Floor” and “Mind-Sifter,” especially.

In the Company of Men: A Woman at The Citadel by Nancy Mace and Mary Jane Ross. Mace was the first woman to graduate from The Citadel, the previously all-male military academy in Charleston, S.C., overcoming lots of challenges, including rampant and very ugly misogyny, to do so. An interesting account, all in all, but with some puzzling narrative gaps; it also could have used better editing.

A Study in Emerald by Neil Gaiman; a graphic novel by Rafael Albuquerque (author, illustrator), Rafael Scavone (author) and Dave Stewart (illustrator). A worthwhile adaptation of Gaiman’s clever Conan Doyle/Lovecraft mashup.

Now I’ve begun Robert A. Heinlein’s Sixth Column, a sf novel about a superscience-based counterinsurgency against Pan-Asiatic conquerors of the U.S. First serialized in 1941, it’s pretty racist, but if you can get past that it’s a pretty good read. I first read it in my teens and it’s all coming back to me now.

I read Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney. It was good enough to finish, but not as good as I was expecting it to be.

Currently reading Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns. Also not as good as I was expecting it to be. It’s a book on cognitive behavioral therapy, which is essentially changing your thought patterns to reduce depression. I don’t have depression, but I figured I could still stand to read about healthy thought patterns. The book has some solid techniques and advice, but it’s written in a textbook-sort of style that’s dry and is taking me a while to get through.

Also reading Lucy Crisp and the Vanishing House by Janet Hill, which is such a different reading experience than I’m used to. Hill is first and foremost an artist, and so this book is actually a picture book! It’s a little over 200 pages, and I’m not sure who the target readership audience is: maybe middle grade? But the book has gorgeous colorful illustrations throughout (I bought the hard copy because I knew my Kindle would not do the pictures justice). Not every page has an illustration, but there are several in each chapter and I turn each page hoping to encounter another picture. Makes me feel like a five-year old again!

Finished The Star Fox by Poul Anderson, which had its good parts. Very like Heinlein, including some things that did not age well about the female characters.

Now I’m reading a book of essays by Teresa Nielsen Hayden called Making Book.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest h/c arrived this morning, so I’m about to start that. It’s a hefty natural history/memoir called The High Sierra: A Love Story.
He’s known the mountainsall his life and one of my favourite stories of his is Muir on Shasta so I’m sure I can enjoy it without ever visiting!

MOST of the SF of that period hasn’t aged well in reference to women.