Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, September 2015
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.
- Linda Nagata, The Trials
- Sequel to First Light,
where the consequences of that adventure come home to roost. — If I say
that these novels are near-future military hard science fiction, full of
descriptions of imaginary technologies and of stuff blowing up, and clearly
inspired by an anxious vision of America's ongoing decline, I am being
perfectly truthful, and yet also quite misleading. People who enjoy books
which fall under that rubric will find it very much the sort of thing they
like; at the same time, normally I'd pay to avoid having to read such works,
and yet found these two quite compelling, and eagerly await the conclusion.
- ObLinkage: Nagata's self-presentation.
- Letizia Battaglia, Passion, Justice, Freedom --- Photographs of Sicily
- Battaglia comes across as a bit of a crazy woman, but in a deeply
admirable way; and, of course, a tremendous photographer.
- Paul McAuley, In the Mouth of the Whale
- Hard-SF space opera, set in the same future as his terrific
The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun, but many
centuries later. (He's good at filling in enough of the back-story to make it
separately readable.) In this book, we're plunged into a conflict over the
star system around Fomalhaut among four different
more-or-less-post-more-or-less-human clades, seen from three points of view,
two of which prove to be peripheral grunts. (Spoiler: Jung, rneyl ba, nccrnef gb or bar bs gur zbfg uhzna ivrjcbvagf
cebirf, va snpg, gb or cebsbhaqyl fgenatr, gubhtu guvf vf fbzrguvat ernqref bs
gur cerivbhf obbx pbhyq thrff.) I thought it was very good, though not quite
as great as those two earlier books.
- Edward K. Muller (ed.), An Uncommon Passage: Traveling through History on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail
- A decent collection of essays, and really pretty photos, on the natural and
human history of what is today a bike route
from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Maryland (and
to Washignton, D.C.), but has had a lot of other incarnations over the
centuries. Of only local interest, but locally interesting.
- ObSnapshots: From a bike trip last year.
- Gillian Flynn, Dark Places
- Mind candy mystery: In which
panic of the 1980s meets the economic collapse of family farming, and makes
for something bitterly poisonous and engrossing. (Though arguably not as
poisonous as some of
happened back then.)
- Carolyn Drake, Wild Pigeon
- Photos, collages and a translated story, meant to illustrate the
contemporary life of the Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Bought from the
author; I learned about it from
York Review blog.
- Fernand Braudel, The Wheels of Commerce
- I picked up this middle volume of a trilogy, without having read the first
book, because someone left it in a free-books pile at work, and I was curious.
Whoever got rid of their copy: thanks. This is a truly fascinating look at the
development of the market economy and capitalism
in early modern
Europe, and to some extent in the rest of the old world at the same time,
full of fascinating information (*) and perspectives, as well as chewy and
- One notable feature, for me, is that Braudel wants to distinguish between
the development of a market economy and the development of capitalism. He does
this not to suggest an early-modern pre-history
socialism, but because he identifies capitalism with "the realm of
investment and of a high rate of capital formation", i.e., the activities of
men, and of firms, who made substantial investments of money which resulted, or
could result, in high rates of return. This was, in this period, in finance
(especially financing the developing sovereign territorial states), in
long-distance trade, and in monopolies. These were activities which could
hardly have gotten off the ground without a large market economy around them,
but where competition was precisely what one would want to avoid...
- I wish someone had told me before this that Braudel was a good writer, and
not just an important historian. Also: I'd have given a lot to see what he
might have made of
international trade theory" and "new economic geography", which were just
forming at the time he was writing.
- *: The bit on p. 556 where he says that a
"prohibition on lending at interest" was a "condition not present in Islam" was
rather boggling, and does
leave me wondering about the accuracy of some of his other
- Sarah Vowell, Unfamiliar
- The story of the American conquest of Hawaii, told in Vowell's signature
style. (It works better read aloud than on the silent page.) With many thanks
to "Uncle Jan" for my copy.
- Iain M. Banks, Surface
- Mind candy: space opera, in which the Culture, in its own inimitable
fashion, harrows Hell. Somewhat longer, I think, than it needed to be, but
still compulsively readable.
- Amanda Downum, Dreams of Shreds and
- Mind candy, at the urban fantasy / horror border, in which Vancouver's art
scene confronts an outbreak from the dungeon dimensions — or, more
exactly, Carcosa. I quite enjoyed how Downum is able to use pretty much the
full canonical Cthulhu Mythos, from the seventy steps down to the Dreamlands to
night-gaunts and everything else, and manage to make it seem not a formulaic
exercise but genuinely creepy. (And I mean "creepy" in the "hairs standing on
the back of the neck" sense, not the "bigoted distant connection at
Thanksgiving" [*] sense, which says something considering the source material.)
I have the impression this novel didn't make much of an impact when it came
out, but if so that's unfair.
- *: Of course I'm not thinking of you, dear
distant connection with whom I have shared Thanksgiving.
- Mind-candy contemporary fantasy in which discovering that her biological
parents are convicted serial killers is the least of the protagonist's
- Dana Goldstein, The Teacher Wars: A History of America's Most Embattled Profession
- This is a very nicely done popular history of not just the
teaching profession but also of the public schools, and just why both have been
such a point of political contention for so long — and why we keep trying
incredibly similar fixes time after time. Because it's not an academic tome,
it doesn't attempt to be altogether comprehensive, rather a series of portraits
of particular episodes, but so far as an interested non-expert can judge, those
episodes are well-chosen and the background to the portraits accurate.
- (I read this a year ago, but forgot to blog it.)
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
Writing for Antiquity;
The Beloved Republic;
The Dismal Science;
The Great Transformation;
Heard about Pittsburgh PA;
Afghanistan and Central Asia;
Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime;
Corrupting the Young
Posted at September 30, 2015 23:59 | permanent link