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What have you read lately?

Started by polly_mer, May 19, 2019, 02:43:35 PM

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Puget

Quote from: apl68 on May 24, 2023, 01:46:00 PM
Quote from: ab_grp on May 24, 2023, 01:19:53 PM
Puget, thanks for mentioning the Libby app! I downloaded it and actually do not have a library card here but just applied for one online.  I think I had heard of Overdrive as a resource for e-books, but I kept having trouble trying to access it through my previous library's website (years ago), so hopefully the updated system will be more user friendly (for me).  I'm really glad to hear about the app!

It's a mature enough software that it usually works in a pretty trouble-free manner.  If you do have glitches trying to use it on your device, your library staff will be glad to help you sort it out.  Our staff can usually clear up patron Libby issues pretty quickly.

It's great! I've never had any issues. I especially like that you can filter by what is available now so I can get something right away when I'm in desperate need. It's also nice that if you have things come in off your hold list when you won't be able to get to them you can let someone go ahead of you and get them a week or two later.
"Never get separated from your lunch. Never get separated from your friends. Never climb up anything you can't climb down."
–Best Colorado Peak Hikes

Juvenal

Fires of Vesuvius, by Mary Beard (a wonderful guide).  A series of chapters on just what we do know and what we don't know (a lot) about the disaster in August (or was in the fall?) of 79 CE, with a intimate discussion of the the social, economic, matters.

Do you want to know about "garum?"  The widespread use of phallic imagery?  Unfortunately, the accompanying images--of all kinds--are so small and dark in this edition that making sense of them is hard.  Go to YouTube for Beard's discussion.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0i2eNqotlY&t=2148s
Cranky septuagenarian

RatGuy

I just finished Jane Harper's The Dry, and I plan on reading her other Aaron Falk mysteries. Pretty breezy summertime reading

Puget

Quote from: RatGuy on May 27, 2023, 08:09:27 PM
I just finished Jane Harper's The Dry, and I plan on reading her other Aaron Falk mysteries. Pretty breezy summertime reading

I've enjoyed all her books!
"Never get separated from your lunch. Never get separated from your friends. Never climb up anything you can't climb down."
–Best Colorado Peak Hikes

FishProf

I started reading Watership Down to MFP and Smolt, but about 1/3 of they way through, they were bored and gave up.  I continued it on Audiobook and I loved it.  It's is a great story and very dark at times.  I'm bummed I missed it when I was young.
I'd rather have questions I can't answer, than answers I can't question.

apl68

Quote from: FishProf on May 28, 2023, 01:50:33 PM
I started reading Watership Down to MFP and Smolt, but about 1/3 of they way through, they were bored and gave up.  I continued it on Audiobook and I loved it.  It's is a great story and very dark at times.  I'm bummed I missed it when I was young.

It was the one book in the library leadership book club I was in for a time that I actually enjoyed.  Although The Alchemist was at least very readable.
God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, but the fire next time
When this world's all on fire
Hide me over, Rock of Ages, cleft for me

apl68

Medieval Science and Technology, by Elspeth Whitney.  This was part of an early 2000s series by Greenwood that dealt with aspects of the Middle Ages.  The author notes at the beginning that whenever she told people about studying science and technology in the Middle Ages, the usual response was surprise that there was any such thing.  Whitney's work is mostly a survey of the intellectual world of the Middle Ages that demonstrates a high level of continuity with ancient ideas involving (proto) science and medicine. 

And also a quite significant amount of intellectual and technological innovation.  Medieval technological innovation may have been a very gradual process by modern standards, but cumulatively it had a profound effect on the world.  It was the period that produced such innovations as clockwork, gunpowder, and printing, after all, to name only the three best-known.

And yet the popular view persists of the Middle Ages as a dark age of stagnation, dominated by moronic superstition and dogma, until a secular Renaissance enlightenment finally broke the hold of the Church.  I blame Monty Python in part, although their Holy Grail movie has always seemed to me as much a satire of silly modern ideas of the Middle Ages as of the period itself.  What's really culpable, though is recent works--Nature's Mutiny, Philipp Blom's massively disappointing look at the "Little Ice Age" comes to mind--that continue to perpetuate the thoroughly debunked medieval religious dark age vs. modern secular Renaissance enlightenment fable. 

I don't even consider myself a fan or apologist for the Middle Ages.  I just hate to see a whole civilization constantly denigrated by scholars who evidently don't know what they're talking about.  Or worse do, but don't let historical evidence get in the way of whatever agendas they're trying to advance today.

God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, but the fire next time
When this world's all on fire
Hide me over, Rock of Ages, cleft for me

Parasaurolophus

#1132
Quote from: apl68 on May 30, 2023, 08:03:19 AM

And also a quite significant amount of intellectual and technological innovation.  Medieval technological innovation may have been a very gradual process by modern standards, but cumulatively it had a profound effect on the world.  It was the period that produced such innovations as clockwork, gunpowder, and printing, after all, to name only the three best-known.




Not to mention wind and water power!



My haul for May:


Adrian Tchaikovsky - Redemption's Blade: After the War: An interesting collaborative series, in which each of many authors writes one novel. This is the first. It's a high fantasy tale that takes place after the great war against evil has been won and everyone is left to pick up the pieces of the world. It's an interesting idea, and the worldbuilding is very rich. It basically reads like a D&D campaign, however. That makes for a competent and fun story, but the D&D aspect is kind of distracting once you notice it. I'll read the next one if I come across it in a book box or something, although I'm somewhat skeptical of what the D&D campaign will look like in someone else's hands.

Adrian Tchaikovsky - Ogres: Spartacus meets Toussaint L'Ouverture in a distant-but-not-so-distant future that, in a way, imagines what the world would have looked like if the Confederacy had been a global power (and won). There's perhaps even a dash of that LeGuin novel about slavery. I've said before that Tchaikovsky really excels when it comes to novella-length works, and this is no different. I was reticent to read it, but almost immediately hooked. I think, however, that it should have ended with the penultimate scene.

Adrian Tchaikovsky - City of Last Chances: A bit of the Paris Commune (IIRC?) in a fantasy setting, with elements of Terry Pratchett's Small Gods. Thoroughly enjoyable, with typically rich worldbuilding.

Rob Wilkins - Terry Pratchett: A Life With Footnotes: I'm not much for biographies, although I do enjoy reading about the authors I love and their creative process. This is that. It's engaging and very well written, with more than a hint of Pratchett himself in there. Learning about his life up to the Discworld success was a fascinating glimpse into the scifi/fantasy world of the 1970s and 1980s, and even the 1990s, as well as into the publishing industry of the time. It is, however, an extremely sympathetic portrayal (borderline sycophantic or fanboy?), despite a few hints at some rough edges. He appears to have been a difficult man. I'd have liked to learn more about those rough edges; that they're glossed over in passing left me filling in the blanks in ways that are not entirely complimentary to Pratchett, and I'd have preferred a more direct look at those warts instead. I'd also have liked to learn more about his family life, which essentially doesn't feature at all. I imagine that's deliberate, and in keeping with the estate's wishes (since it's the official biography, and Wilkins is a close friend of the Pratchetts), but in the end it serves to make Pratchett sounds like something of a monomaniacal workaholic. And while I get the sense that there is a grain or two of truth to that characterization, I also get the sense that this grossly distorts his character. The extended description of the descent into Alzheimer's is heart-wrenching, especially if you've any experience with that. Also, the job of being a personal assistant sounds like it sucks.

Darren Naish and Paul Barrett - Dinosaurs: How They Lived And Evolved: As far as I can see, this is the best popular up-to-date summary of dinosaur science out there (although it's no longer entirely up to date, since it was published seven years ago; I have the first edition, but the second seems to have made mostly relatively minor adjustments). As such, it's good and accessible (it starts with the very basic basics), and it's nice that it devotes an entire chapter to birds (rather than just Mesozoic birds, or Mesozoic + early Cenozoic), and is entirely unapologetic about birds and dinosaurs. The art selection is a little dated, although the authors don't shy away from critiquing it (the cover of the first edition, however, is bad in all kinds of ways; I gather they had no control over it, and weren't happy about it). Some sections offer what is perhaps a slightly more balanced treatment than is warranted (e.g. the section on the end-Cretaceous extinction). At this point I don't think I learned much that was new to me, but (1) it's good to read an up-to-date palate cleanser after having delved for a bit into the dinosaur science of the '80s and '90s, and (2) there's so much that you're bound to forget stuff, and it's nice to be reminded of it all.

Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games: I found it at the yearly community book sale, and I'd been meaning to read it for years, so I picked it up. I expected it to be just another perfectly decent teen novel (I saw the film when it came out). I was wrong`; it's very good. It's very well crafted, the satire surprisingly deft and surprisingly biting, and its singular focus makes it hard to put down. I have a few small quibbles--you don't load a bow, goats need to be/have been pregnant to produce milk, and how could Clove know about what happened to Rue?--but really, it's a great read, even for an adult, and top-notch teen fare for sure. I'm desperate to read the sequels and prequel, although someone's got them out at the library. I suspect, however, that they'll dilute the focus and centre instead on fomenting a rebellion against the Capitol, and that will make it less interesting for me, and push it squarely into the teen novel realm. Which is fine--I like teen novels!--but will mean that they're just much less good than the first.
I know it's a genus.

apl68

Quote from: Parasaurolophus on May 30, 2023, 09:20:03 AM

Darren Naish and Paul Barrett - Dinosaurs: How They Lived And Evolved: As far as I can see, this is the best popular up-to-date summary of dinosaur science out there (although it's no longer entirely up to date, since it was published seven years ago; I have the first edition, but the second seems to have made mostly relatively minor adjustments). As such, it's good and accessible (it starts with the very basic basics), and it's nice that it devotes an entire chapter to birds (rather than just Mesozoic birds, or Mesozoic + early Cenozoic), and is entirely unapologetic about birds and dinosaurs. The art selection is a little dated, although the authors don't shy away from critiquing it (the cover of the first edition, however, is bad in all kinds of ways; I gather they had no control over it, and weren't happy about it). Some sections offer what is perhaps a slightly more balanced treatment than is warranted (e.g. the section on the end-Cretaceous extinction). At this point I don't think I learned much that was new to me, but (1) it's good to read an up-to-date palate cleanser after having delved for a bit into the dinosaur science of the '80s and '90s, and (2) there's so much that you're bound to forget stuff, and it's nice to be reminded of it all.

It's been awhile since I've had the opportunity to read a good dinosaur book.  I can justify getting maybe one a year for our small-town library's collection.  The latest edition of this might be a good choice for this year's acquisition.

Dinosaurs are always crowd-pleasers, but I also try to give some love to some of the other notable prehistoric fauna.  Like Inostrancevia:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inostrancevia


Which evidently looked something like a cross between a walrus and a sabertooth.
God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, but the fire next time
When this world's all on fire
Hide me over, Rock of Ages, cleft for me

jimbogumbo

Okay, never read The Hunger Games books or Twilight, as I'm an old snob. Would I like Twilight as well? Also planning to read Wayward Pines.

Parasaurolophus

Quote from: apl68 on May 30, 2023, 01:27:32 PM
It's been awhile since I've had the opportunity to read a good dinosaur book.  I can justify getting maybe one a year for our small-town library's collection.  The latest edition of this might be a good choice for this year's acquisition.

Dinosaurs are always crowd-pleasers, but I also try to give some love to some of the other notable prehistoric fauna.  Like Inostrancevia:


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inostrancevia


I think you'd personally enjoy Witton's The Palaeoartist's Handbook more (incidentally, Witton also restores Cenozoic and Permian fauna--including Inostrancevia!), but yeah, your patrons would be better off with Naish and Barrett.

Quote from: jimbogumbo on May 30, 2023, 01:54:17 PM
Okay, never read The Hunger Games books or Twilight, as I'm an old snob. Would I like Twilight as well? Also planning to read Wayward Pines.

I dunno. It's on my list of future things to read, but I'm not in a hurry to get to it. Then again, that was true of The Hunger Games, too, and now look at me.

I know it's a genus.

onthefringe

Quote from: Parasaurolophus on May 30, 2023, 04:53:26 PM

Quote from: jimbogumbo on May 30, 2023, 01:54:17 PM
Okay, never read The Hunger Games books or Twilight, as I'm an old snob. Would I like Twilight as well? Also planning to read Wayward Pines.

I dunno. It's on my list of future things to read, but I'm not in a hurry to get to it. Then again, that was true of The Hunger Games, too, and now look at me.

I liked Hunger Games very much for all the reasons Parasaraulophus points out. The sequels were not quite as good, but stubbornly refused to settle into many of the expected teen dystopia tropes.

I tried the first Twilight book and bounced off it hard. It's basically a poorly written love triangle with a passive central female character and mopey vampires and werwolves. If I want light fantasy werewolf/vampire/adventure/romance books I'm good with the Mercy Thompson series.

FishProf

Quote from: apl68 on May 30, 2023, 01:27:32 PM
Dinosaurs are always crowd-pleasers, but I also try to give some love to some of the other notable prehistoric fauna.  Like Inostrancevia:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inostrancevia

Which evidently looked something like a cross between a walrus and a sabertooth.

News of Inostrancevia
I'd rather have questions I can't answer, than answers I can't question.

apl68

Frozen In Time:  Clarence Birdseye's Outrageous Idea About Frozen Food, by Mark Kurlansky.  This is a condensed-for-younger-readers version of Kurlansky's earlier Birdseye:  The Adventures of a Curious Man.  I read the first books several years ago.  I first read about Clarence Birdseye's pioneering work in frozen foods in a sidebar feature in a sixth-grade (?) science textbook.  Birdseye spent his youth adventuring in the Rocky Mountains and Labrador in the early 1900s.  In the latter place he learned that meat frozen quickly in the winter would remain both edible and palatable for quite some time.  This inspired him to do several years' worth of creative tinkering to work out economical ways of quick-freezing foods on a large scale.  And so the modern consumer frozen foods industry was born.  Birdseye kept tinkering and took out patents on quite a few other innovations as well.  The Bird's Eye brand is still around. 

In a world where we are all too aware of the health, environmental, and social consequences of excessive dependence on agribusiness and over-processed foods, there's a tendency to view those responsible for these developments as greedy, scheming, villains.  Birdseye doesn't fit the bill as a villain.  While he did indeed never meet a dollar he didn't like, he seems to have been a genuinely nice guy.  He comes across in Kurlansky's telling as a classic hands-on eccentric inventor type.  He'd have been an interesting fellow to meet.

He and his fellow preserved foods pioneers would have considered themselves society's benefactors.  After all, they helped to make it possible for people in all sorts of places and climates to have a varied diet all year round, which averted the perennial scourge of annual seasonal malnutrition.  Our modern, urbanized world couldn't exist without this sort of supply chain.  Birdseye died in 1956, and would never have been able to anticipate the relentless extremes to which processed foods and consolidation in the food industry would go, the tempting marketing of junk foods, or the sweeping social developments that have left most people without the time, inclination, or skills to cook proper meals.  We just can't as a society seem to resist taking our technologies and our dependence on them too far.
God gave Noah the rainbow sign
No more water, but the fire next time
When this world's all on fire
Hide me over, Rock of Ages, cleft for me

Morden

#1139
Station Eleven by Mantel: a post-apocalyptic world (pandemic) but far less focus on the day to day grittiness and more on character development than many books of the genre. Very good.
Several Tchaikovsky novels (thanks to recommenders on this thread and the sci-fi thread): Children of Memory--OK but I didn't feel the need to continue on with that series; Shards of Earth; Eyes of the Void; Lords of Uncreation--I really liked the first; the other two were OK. The shifting point of view reminded me of the Expanse series. Actually I was reminded of the Expanse series several times; and Doors of Eden: I liked this one a lot--multiple alternate timelines of evolution on Earth, with different species developing sentience (for example, trilobites), begin to collide with each other.

I think I'll work on mysteries for a while now.