Jared Diamond, Collapse. Everyone else has already read this. Now I have, too. There were a couple of things where I thought he'd oversimplified, but for the most part it was interesting. I loved the bit with all the Pacific Islands. It seems such a trivial thing to like about a writer, but I really love how he tends to test theories with actual numbers wherever possible. It doesn't invalidate work where it's not possible, but looking at it and saying, "Here we have a large number of islands and a smaller number of variables; can we look for patterns?" is so reasonable.
Barbara Freese, Coal. A microhistory of...coal, actually. And it turns out I knew more about the history of coal than I thought, or else Freese wasn't very good at picking out the crunchy good bits. Sadly, I suspect the latter: did you know that England (not Great Britain or the UK but England) and the US and China are the only places where there are interesting things to say about coal? Apparently. Sigh. And it was a short book, too, so it's not as though she had to cut down to only the absolutely most fascinating material to get it into anything like a manageable length.
John Taylor Gatto, Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling. Mr. Gatto is a teacher who is cranky about public schools, sometimes for good reason and sometimes less so. He is better, in my opinion, at pointing out what is wrong than at figuring out ways to get better from here.
Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Felaheen. Like many multi-POV books, this one suffered because I preferred some POV characters to others enough that I was impatient with half the storylines. I'd read the two before it in the series, and I liked this better than the second, but I'm glad I got it from the library rather than buying a copy.
John MacDonald, A Tan and Sandy Silence. Meep. This was not, shall we say, the most upbeat and cheerful of the Travis McGee books.
Elizabeth Moon, The Speed of Dark. Oh, I liked this. I'd like to hear if anyone who falls on the autism spectrum themselves (on this friendslist) has read it, and if so what their opinion was. From my perspective, it was fascinating and well-done, but I recognize that I might have it all wrong.
Madeleine Robins, Petty Treason. I like this one a little less than its predecessor, but not enough less that I wouldn't recommend it. Umm. Let me invert that into English: I would recommend it. It was good fun.
Dorothy Sayers and Jill Paton Walsh, A Presumption of Death. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Well, at least I know what it does now, and I don't have to go back.
Kevin Starr, California. Starr went back and forth between Southern and Northern California. Specifically, he talked more about Southern when I was interested in Northern, and vice versa. Sigh. Basically I wanted this book's inverse. Only more so.
Rex Stout, Too Many Cooks. Nero left the house again. Is this going to be a convention more observed in its breaking? I'm not sure how I feel about that -- kind of Prime Directive-y -- but it was still a fun quick read in the doctor's office.
Margaret Visser, Much Depends on Dinner. Went over the history of each part of a very simple meal. There was enough for a whole book per chapter, and I know because one of the chapters was about salt, and I love Mark Kurlansky's Salt. I'm not sure whether it's better for a work of nonfiction to leave me impatient for more in each section or to cover an idea so exhaustively that I'm sick of it. Hmmm. Anyway, it was interesting what had changed in the two decades since this book was written, and what hadn't.
This morning I am being the last fantasy writer to read The Last Unicorn for the first time.