Sunday, April 27, 2014

Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire

Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire. Michael Pollan is always enjoyable, even though sometimes  a little hyperbolic in his arguments. At least he lists his sources. Anyway, a history of agriculture or plant and human co-evolution using the apple, tulip, marijuana, and potato as examples. Fascinating, particularly the history of the domestication of the apple. At lunch with a couple of Braeburns between us, a Kazakh friend told me that the city of Almaty is named for apples and wild apples of all strange sorts grow around it. I also like to think of the reproductive strategy of the plants in domestication - reminds me of successful pathogen evolution, but more beneficial.

Jennifer Egan, A Visit From The Goon Squad

Jennifer Egan, A Visit From The Goon Squad. Rock and roll doesn't age gracefully.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Marcel Proust, Swann's Way

Marcel Proust, Swann's Way. Do a few moment of poignant and transcendent beauty make unending pages of boredom worthwhile? Probably, but there it is.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child

Eowyn Ivey, The Snow Child. A beautiful fairy-tale about a mysterious girl appearing to a lonely  pioneer couple - they love her as their longed-for child - and she brings them a love of the wildlife and wild country of Alaska. The story is a rare snapshot of frontier life that illustrates the deep pleasures that the environment provides as well as the hardships.

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Charles Dickens, David Copperfield. One of the few books I ever refused to finish as a child - I was deeply disgusted by Uriah Heep and irritated with Little Eml'y. I still have complicated feelings about Dickens - love, frustration, exasperation, anger - but I do enjoy revisiting him on occasion. D.C. was much much funnier than I remembered and Betsy Trotwood nearly made up for the horrible Eml'y and Dora. And as the ridiculous coincidences pile up the slapped-on sentimentality acquires its own hilarity.  But really, nothing like Dickens to make one glad one is not living in Victorian England without a penis.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Nicola Griffith, Hild

Nicola Griffith, Hild. Wonderful. Immersive and beautifully crafted historical fiction on par with Wolf Hall.

Sci-fi and children's books and odds and ends

So, a super fast run down of some of the fun things I've been reading for respite while writing a science review paper:
Super creepy, liked that the protagonist was terribly bossy and a perfectionist and that these qualities were both positive and were abused by the horrible insect-y villains: Claire Legrand, The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls.
Reading Ryan North's choose your own path Hamlet To Be or Not To Be with the kids, too much fun - you can choose to be the ghost, Ophelia, Polonius, or Hamlet (Jr).  And, I got the Humble eBook Bundle 3 (which To Be or Not to Be was part of) and enjoyed most of the books, especially the silly and fun Arcanum 101 by Rosemary Edghill and Mercedes Lackey and Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw and the extremely silly Zombies Vs. Unicorns anthology.
Oh, and Chris Jones and Zach Weinersmith's Twins in Time, a picture book about the relativistic traveling twins of many physics textbooks, is adorable.
William Gibson & Bruce Sterling's The Difference Engine, which I could have sworn I read already but had not, is a little disappointing but has fascinating aspects.
David Rakoff's essays, Half Empty, are neither children's nor science fiction but are completely delightful.
And I am discovering Christina Rossetti, whose work I unaccountably missed growing up except for a few anthologized poems, and she is absolutely worth the read. Fantasy fans in particular should reread The Goblin Market and then read anything by Neil Gaiman.
Terry Pratchett's The Carpet People was very cute and we also just listened to The Wee Free Men for the five millionth time and can't recommend it enough.
Reread The Once and Future King, still love it. Listened to the audiobook of the the first book, The Sword in the Stone with the family and it is wonderful and was much faster than when I read it out loud and Neville Jason's voices were much better.