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Books read, late January. - Barnstorming on an Invisible Segway [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Marissa Lingen

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Books read, late January. [Feb. 2nd, 2013|02:33 pm]
Marissa Lingen
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I quit reading nearly half the books I started in the last fortnight, and that's counting the poetry and graphic stuff I did finish as individual books. It was just a terrible fortnight for library books. The library's system is having a glitch fairly often, wherein you can't request just any book from your wishlist, it has to be one of the top four on the list. Well, I have my lists divided up into categories, but still, one of those categories is "nonfiction." As a result, I've been requesting a lot of things that have drifted to the top of the list by virtue of being long-shots in my interest levels, and now I'm finding that most of them are not in fact for Mrissas. This is good in some ways; the point of a library list is not to maintain itself indefinitely, nor to trick me into thinking there are more books I will like than actually are at the library waiting. But it does lead to a rather lower hit-rate.

Mary Alexandra Agner, Olivia and the Experiments. Kindle. I backed this project on Kickstarter, so I'd been waiting for it for awhile. It's a very approachable way to learn about different experiments, and the girly-Lego pictures of scientific apparatus are awesome. The whole thing makes me smile.

Richard Aldous, The Lion and the Unicorn: Gladstone Vs. Disraeli. Uff da, Mr. Gladstone was a mess. Personally, I mean. I found this interesting but would have preferred more Disraeli and less "Gladstone has a ton of sexual foibles."

Elizabeth Bear (matociquala), Shoggoths in Bloom. Sometimes it's really nice to read a collection of short stories with just the right proportion of "I've already read this and know I like it" to "this one is new and potentially cool." For me this was one of those books. Maybe for you too! Or maybe you don't know what's in it yet. There's new Matthew in it! If you were missing Matthew, there he is. Also other good stuff. But really. Matthew. There ya go.

Hanne Blank, The Unapologetic Fat Girl's Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts. "But Mris," quoth the astute reader, "you are not fat, and you already exercise a lot, like, really a lot." True indeed. But there's always something to learn, and I like Hanne, and I'm pretty clear that Hanne is going to try to teach this sort of thing without being a jerk to any body type. Also, sometimes it's important to read a book like this and say, "Oh, I never thought of that being a potential problem!" Because now I will think of some things being potential problems, and will be less of a jerk to other body types thereby.

Jane Gleeson-White, Double Entry: How the Merchants of Venice Created Modern Finance. This was a disappointment to me. Great swaths of overgeneralization, not enough actual merchants. Bookkeeping history, okay, that's a piece of how we do stuff, and it's interesting, but Gleeson-White wanted to run with it far further than I thought it would go. Not really recommended.

Michael Goodwin, Economix: How Our Economy Works (And Doesn't Work) In Words and Pictures. I got this for markgritter to share with our godson, who loves nonfiction comics. It's pretty good. If you are hoping for an economist to bend over backwards to not be "political" in favor of misstating things economists actually do agree on, this is not the book for you. I don't think that's an awesome thing to hope for, actually, so if you like nonfiction comics and want an economics primer, this is a pretty good one.

Meg Hutchinson, The Morning I Was Born: A Month in Poems. Meg is one of my very favorite musicians. She did this poem challenge with her mother last year, and I very much like some of the results. I also like tracing where influences of some of her new songs came from. She isn't as likely to play with formalism as the poets I read who are more full-time poets, which was also interesting to me because her songwriting doesn't eschew a more formal scheme when it serves the piece. I'm very glad to have this and will probably reread bits of it.

Ursula LeGuin, Voices. This read like a book I loved when I was a kid. Not a specific book I loved when I was a kid, it just had the feeling of a thing I was picking up having loved it as a kid. And it was new. And...that's kind of awesome, being able to add to that category retroactively. I really liked the things she was doing with politics and compromise also.

Basil Mahon, The Man Who Changed Everything: The Life of James Clerk Maxwell. Not the best-written bio, but brief and informative. Fairly physics-focused, which is appropriate.

Brendan McConville, The King's Three Faces: The Rise and Fall of Royal America, 1688-1776. Tracing the shift in attitudes in the colonies over that very politically important period. McConville starts down a bit of the "other historians are wrong and let me tell you why" road, but in general he manages to right himself and talk about his own interesting stuff rather than the wrongness of other people. I think one of the things that this reinforced is the sense I had from reading Fred Anderson's Crucible of War (which, by the way, I love) that the American Revolution was in part caused by the fact that the colonists conceived of themselves as British, specifically as free landowning Britons, and the values attached to that diverged from the attitudes of the Crown towards the colonies.

Miho Obana, Kodocha: Sana's Stage Vol. 1-6. Ridiculous manga, sort of in a junior Logan-and-Veronica mode from Veronica Mars. Part of an ongoing conversation. Fun, occasionally darker than one might expect.

Ellis Peters, Fallen Into the Pit. Not one of the Brother Cadfael books. This one is set in the UK immediately after WWII, with returning soldiers and remaining POWs as very much live issues. I liked it and will seek out the rest of the series, but I don't think it's amazing, just reasonably good.

David J. Silbey, The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China. Like it says on the label. If you've read other accounts focused on the Western powers in the Boxer Rebellion, this won't add much, but if you haven't, it's quite reasonable for that purpose.

Freya Stark, The Valleys of the Assassins. Freya Stark is sometimes called the female T. E. Lawrence, but so were several other people. Mostly she's a travel writer. This one is set in Persia in the '30s. I liked it but am not panting to get to her next one. But sometime, I expect. Travel in the '30s is interesting.

Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society. This is like if Daniel Pinkwater had a tiny bit more sense-making and focus, but not a whole lot. It's a fun children's book full of adventure and silliness but at the same time taking the kids pretty seriously. I will definitely want more.

Laurence Yep, City of Death. Discussed elsewhere.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: mamculuna
2013-02-02 10:58 pm (UTC)
Ah, Silbey, here I come! And loved Voices. Glad you did too.
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[User Picture]From: columbina
2013-02-02 11:32 pm (UTC)
"Great swaths of overgeneralization, not enough actual merchants."

Saving this excellent phrase for future use in some context yet to be determined.
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[User Picture]From: lisajulie
2013-02-03 02:18 am (UTC)

Freya Stark

One of the cool things about Freya Stark was how she got about traveling all these forbidden places by being a woman (the culture of the time had a hard time taking women seriously). And how she justified her travels to the authorities as studying the Arabic language while really, all she wanted to do was wander around.

Look for her other books including (wanders over to book shelves), Winter in Arabia and The Southern Gates of Arabia.

Her life is pretty amazing, too.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-02-03 04:05 am (UTC)

Re: Freya Stark

I have a bio of her on my stack to read, so that should be interesting too.
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[User Picture]From: cloudscudding
2013-02-03 08:14 pm (UTC)
A friend of mine reviewed The Serpent's Coil recently, and it sounded like the sort of thing you might like to read--it's on my to-read list now, too.
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[User Picture]From: mrissa
2013-02-03 09:59 pm (UTC)
Looks interesting--I Like Boats. I will keep an eye out. Thanks!
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From: okrablossom.dreamwidth.org
2013-02-09 02:33 am (UTC)

Thank you!

Sorry to see the post so late, but thank you for the kind words about the stories.
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