September 18th, 2009

reading

Books read, early September

L.M. Boston, The Chimneys of Green Knowe. It's fascinating how racist a book that was attempting to be anti-racist can look after this many years. Ms. Boston clearly meant terribly well, but it seems worth flagging.

Marie Brennan (swan_tower), In Ashes Lie. Stuart fairy fantasy! If you are wondering why the Tudors always get the fairy fantasies, wonder no more! So much chewy politics. Yum.

W.E.B. Griffin, Honor Bound. Grandpa's. I had a Moment early on in this book when I thought, "Really? I'm reading a book wherein the main character is named Cletus? Really?" But I got over that part. Mostly. (Cletus? Really?) I was surprised to find that my main complaint about this book boils down to buymeaclue's, "Too much boyfriend, not enough roller derby." In this case, it was, "Too much love life, not enough demolitions." There was a demolitions expert! He did not demolish a great deal! This was frustrating to me, but I will read the next one in hopes of more demolition. I can also see how these might be very good comfort reading for someone who was not looking for more demolitions in their comfort reading. Also I had a moment when the G.O.U showed up on stage when I started singing under my breath, "In June of '43 there was a military coup; behind it was a gang called the G.O.U. who did not feel the need to be elected...oh, crap, I know what's about to happen in these books!" (This one was set in mid-'42.)

Lev Grossman, The Magicians. The lesson of this book is that if you are an unpleasant, pretentious whiner, you can make a magical school or an entire secret magical country completely miserable. Goody. The main character is exactly the sort of person we all avoided at college: the sort who was convinced that general cleverness made him awesome but who never had ideas or projects or anything really other than a sense of his own awesomeness. Meh.

Ulrich Herz, Stig Stromholm, Stellan Arvidson, and Tore Sellberg, Profile of Sweden. Grandpa's. Kind of fun to see what a bunch of Swedes were concerned about telling the rest of the world in the early 1970s. There was an element of, "we are obsessively self-critical so you don't need to criticize us because we will already have thought of it," that did not work for a friend of mine and does not work for countries, either, but was mildly amusing anyway.

Lynn M. Homan and Thomas Reilly, Images of Aviation: Pan Am. Grandpa's. A mostly-photographic history of a defunct airline. Grandpa was, I think, particularly interested in the seaplanes. Possibly I am projecting because I thought they were the coolest part.

Lynne Jonell, Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat. This was quick fun, but it had a strong moralistic/lesson-y tone. I agreed with the lessons about giving your kids time to explore and play and figure things out without grown-up intervention and scheduling every moment, and about time together being more important than things, but I'm not sure how they would play to a young audience: interesting, obvious, irrelevant? The rats were cool, though, and I'm wondering if my godson, who keeps rats, would like this one. (The rats were positive rats, not creepy/icky rat caricatures.)

James Morrow, The Philosopher's Apprentice. You know how James Morrow books go? This one goes like that, too. If you don't know how James Morrow books go, this is not in my opinion the strongest place to find out. At this point I'm ready to just return to earlier Morrow books when I'm in the mood for them, because he's gotten to the point of thematic repetition that feels frustrating to me.

Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to the Birds: Eastern Land and Water Birds. Grandpa's. I know one doesn't customarily read this sort of thing cover-to-cover, but nevertheless I recommend doing something similar if you write speculative fiction or poetry. Letting the birds and their characteristics wash over you is sort of like listening to lyrical music in a language you don't speak. I think it's good for a person and good for the work eventually, in weird ways that don't pop out immediately. Of course if you are a bird person it won't work that way. Possibly they have a reptile field guide or something like that, that birders could use the same way. I haven't looked into it.

Silvan Schweber, Einstein and Oppenheimer: The Meaning of Genius. Thoughts about the way these two scientists who became media giants handled their role in the media, in the scientific community, and in the larger community. I particularly liked that Schweber did not try to do everything with this book. It is not a good candidate for "the only" book anybody ever reads about either figure, or about physics in the early 20th century, but it's a very good addition to a reading list for somebody who already knows a bit about any of those topics.