Author Topic: What have you read lately?  (Read 27907 times)

mamselle

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #495 on: April 22, 2021, 01:32:11 PM »
Apl, I find your analysis of the town development materials fascinating. It's like having a geographic telescope with a rear-iew mirror, that helps you see how things came to be the way they are.

I've always been fascinated by micro-geographies of communities.  And city planning.  I still recall several illuminating studies of older communities in time.  Robin Osborne's Classical Landscape With Figures:  The Ancient Greek City and Its Countryside is also very interesting.

I know the feeling of "...if you squint, you can see them...," which I regularly get after doing an afternoon of 18th c. tours. It's like your awareness of what used to be supplants your sense of what is, sometimes just for a fleeting moment...

I also enjoy doing this with medieval French and English towns. The paper I'm working on now looks at Palm Sunday processions in three French and three English cathedral towns.

So much of the infrastructure is still preserved in nearly all the towns I'm working on that even the roads and their names give clues to what was where. The Celestines still have a (smaller) convent on the Rue des Celestines in one place.

There are remnants of the last 14th houses of the canons in another one's former Cathedral cloister (close). Commercial writing houses were along the roads called "Rue des Scribes" and "Rue des Parmentiers."

And my sister and I got lost in 1973 in London when we tried to find the youth hostel that had newly been established in an old warehouse on Clerkenwell Close. Turned out you had to go through Clerkenwell Street, turn on Clerkenwell Road, go towards Clerkenwell Green, and finally, there was a little side alley called "Clerkenwell Close," that (I know now) led to the cloister for the Clerkenwell monastic emplantation.

All the roads had had that same configuration (maybe a few were straightened a bit) since before the 1500s, when Henry VII destroyed the abbeys and monasteries.

And if you read Robert Parker's books, and you know the area he speaks of, well...

M.   
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apl68

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #496 on: April 23, 2021, 07:27:10 AM »
We have a local road that is named after an auto body shop that is no longer there.  The name was used informally for so long that it now appears on the official road sign.
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ab_grp

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #497 on: April 28, 2021, 04:55:32 PM »
We finished Wool (Howey) last night.  It was actually easier to get into than some of the other books we've read (like Consider Phlebus), but certainly not one of the best.  I am not sure if I think the premise, as it ended up playing out, was clever in terms of storytelling or in terms of setting the stage for additional books.  In looking at the background, it looks as though it was self-published as discussed in this thread, but originally only just the first part of it as a short story.  It got some attention, so he added some subsequent short stories, and the book was eventually published as a whole by Simon & Schuster.  So it is an interesting publishing model, as the next book in the series is apparently a combination (?) of three prequel short stories.  I would probably check out the second book but wouldn't put it on the short list as we have done for other series starters.  There were a couple interesting twists in the story, but some of the important pieces don't seem well explained (and they're not things that would be explained in prequels or sequels).  Some of the content is a bit eye-rolly.  I did enjoy several of the characters, however.  Unfortunately, most of them contributed only to the beginning of the book.  So we didn't give it high praise but did finish it.

Now we're back into the Expanse universe (Corey) with Abaddon's Gate.  Just started, though I wasn't as into the previous books as my husband was (compared to other series), and I am not gaga for this one just yet, either.  We'll see. 

Parasaurolophus

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #498 on: May 02, 2021, 08:06:52 AM »
Snorri Kristjansson - Swords of Good Men: Absolutely awful. Total drivel. The period details are all wrong--it's just ill-informed, unresearched bad viking-inspired D&D dungeon mastering with fantasy weapons and combat. The "story", such as it is, makes no sense--I still have no idea why the settlement was besieged, especially since the beginning made it seem like a natural ally to the besiegers. The writing is poor, and not at all helped by the rapid changes of perspective. Speaking of which, there are far too many perspectives. The entire effect is very disjointed. I struggled to read more than a handful of pages a day. It took me all month to read, and what a waste of a month's reading.

Charles Stross - Glasshouse: A friend likes to describe Stross as an r-selector of a writer, and I tend to agree. This one's a real hit, though: it was great! Interesting and engaging the whole way through, even though I'm usually hesitant to pick up novels of the 'distant future scifi but set in a modernish Earth bubble-world' variety. I would have liked a longer dénouement, because things felt a little rushed at the end, but this is probably the best thing of Stross's that I've read. I'd happily read another with the same general setting, if there was one.

John Conway, C.M. Kosemen, Darren Naish, and Scott Hartman - All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals: This is amazing! All of you dino fans should do yourselves a favour and pick up a copy. The authors basically re-imagine dinosaurs in light of the things we don't know about them and their integument, and cap it off at the end by imagining what alien archaeologists might guess our contemporary wildlife looks like, if they apply the same principles as paleoartists usually do. The results of the first experiment are weird and wonderful; of the second, terrifying and creepy. This is sure to be the best book I've read all year! What a treasure this is!
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mahagonny

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #499 on: May 02, 2021, 08:12:12 AM »
Snorri Kristjansson - Swords of Good Men: Absolutely awful. Total drivel. The period details are all wrong--it's just ill-informed, unresearched bad viking-inspired D&D dungeon mastering with fantasy weapons and combat. The "story", such as it is, makes no sense--I still have no idea why the settlement was besieged, especially since the beginning made it seem like a natural ally to the besiegers. The writing is poor, and not at all helped by the rapid changes of perspective. Speaking of which, there are far too many perspectives. The entire effect is very disjointed. I struggled to read more than a handful of pages a day. It took me all month to read, and what a waste of a month's reading.


Why read the whole thing then?

RatGuy

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #500 on: May 02, 2021, 08:41:27 AM »
Currently reading Barbara Kingsolver's The Bean Trees and re-reading David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. I'm enjoying Bean Trees so much that I'll likely move onto Pigs in Heaven fairly quickly. I'm kinda surprised that we didn't have an early-90s film adaptation of Bean Trees, given its voice, setting, and subject matter. Does Kingsolver fly under the radar, or does everyone already read her and I'm just late to the party?

Parasaurolophus

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #501 on: May 02, 2021, 08:47:34 AM »
Snorri Kristjansson - Swords of Good Men: Absolutely awful. Total drivel. The period details are all wrong--it's just ill-informed, unresearched bad viking-inspired D&D dungeon mastering with fantasy weapons and combat. The "story", such as it is, makes no sense--I still have no idea why the settlement was besieged, especially since the beginning made it seem like a natural ally to the besiegers. The writing is poor, and not at all helped by the rapid changes of perspective. Speaking of which, there are far too many perspectives. The entire effect is very disjointed. I struggled to read more than a handful of pages a day. It took me all month to read, and what a waste of a month's reading.


Why read the whole thing then?

OCD. The rule is that if I make it to page 70 I have to finish. Subsidiary rules can compel me to get to page 70.
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spork

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #502 on: May 02, 2021, 08:50:01 AM »
Quakeland:  On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake, by Kathryn Miles. 

[. . .]

If you are interested in earthquakes:

Kathryn Schulz's New Yorker piece on the risk to the coastal northwestern USA: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/07/20/the-really-big-one (requires creation of a free website account if you are not already a paid subscriber).

Jonathan M. Katz, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, 2013.

I teach a course on disasters, so I'm always looking for readings on events like earthquakes. I'll probably check out Quakeland this summer, so thanks.

A course on disasters.  Now that sounds interesting!

I think your students would like Quakeland.  It's very accessible and has lots of anecdotes among the science stuff.  And some good thoughts about the public policy implications of the world's disaster-proneness.  You could pick a lot of good modest-length readings out of there.

I read New Yorker regularly and have probably seen the Schulz article.  I'm planning in the near future to go back and re-read some of New Yorker's environmental pieces.  I'll have to try to find the Katz book.

While researching Quakeland, I found another book by Kathryn Miles: Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy. This also looks interesting and I'll be requesting a copy through my university's library network at the end of the semester.

I just finished Until the World Shatters: Truth, Lies, and the Looting of Myanmar by Daniel Combs. I thought it was much better than The Hidden History of Burma: Race, Capitalism, and Democracy in the 21st Century by Thant Myint-U.

I found a copy of Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy through my public library and read it. It's well-written long-form journalism. I liked it.
It's terrible writing, used to obfuscate the fact that the authors actually have nothing to say.

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #503 on: May 02, 2021, 11:18:04 AM »
John Conway, C.M. Kosemen, Darren Naish, and Scott Hartman - All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals: This is amazing! All of you dino fans should do yourselves a favour and pick up a copy. The authors basically re-imagine dinosaurs in light of the things we don't know about them and their integument, and cap it off at the end by imagining what alien archaeologists might guess our contemporary wildlife looks like, if they apply the same principles as paleoartists usually do. The results of the first experiment are weird and wonderful; of the second, terrifying and creepy. This is sure to be the best book I've read all year! What a treasure this is!

Does it depend heavily on illustrations? In other words, should I try to find a physical copy, or would my black-and-white e-reader be able to do it justice?

Parasaurolophus

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #504 on: May 02, 2021, 11:20:50 AM »
John Conway, C.M. Kosemen, Darren Naish, and Scott Hartman - All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals: This is amazing! All of you dino fans should do yourselves a favour and pick up a copy. The authors basically re-imagine dinosaurs in light of the things we don't know about them and their integument, and cap it off at the end by imagining what alien archaeologists might guess our contemporary wildlife looks like, if they apply the same principles as paleoartists usually do. The results of the first experiment are weird and wonderful; of the second, terrifying and creepy. This is sure to be the best book I've read all year! What a treasure this is!

Does it depend heavily on illustrations? In other words, should I try to find a physical copy, or would my black-and-white e-reader be able to do it justice?

It's pretty much all illustrations. One page of text for 1-1.5 pages of illustrations.
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smallcleanrat

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Re: What have you read lately?
« Reply #505 on: May 03, 2021, 05:14:41 PM »
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Combination of memoir and self-help principle, but far more likeable than some of the more famous books in the personal development genre. No sweeping over-generalizations or claims to grand truths; no arrogance or condescension in tone. She describes her own successes and failures without implying that, in the process, she discovered some universal principle for living a good life. 

The book is structured around a series of small "experiments" the author applied in her own life. In preparation, she read up on the psychology and philosophy of what happiness is and how people attain it (she has a law background, and she seems to have been very methodical and thorough with this part of her project). Each chapter centers around a different factor (e.g. friendship, recreation, productivity) and the small projects and challenges she set for herself to see how it affected her mindset and behavior. Much of it centers around home and family life, and she writes with mild, inoffensive humor.

I might post again with a couple of highlights once I've finished the book.



This isn't really one of the most profound insights in the book, it just made me chuckle. It's in the chapter on how money relates to happiness; author has been describing ways money can indeed make it easier to be happy. This leads to an argument with an acquaintance:

"That's so wrong!" she said. "Money can't buy happiness!"
"You don't think so?"
"I'm the perfect example. I don't make much money. A few years back, I took my savings and bought a horse. My mother and everyone told me I was crazy. But that horse makes me incredibly happy - even though I end up spending all my extra money on him."
"But," I said, confused, "money did make you happy. It makes you so happy to have a horse!"
"But I don't have any money," she answered. "I spent it all."
"Right, because you used it to buy a horse!"
She shook her head and gave up on me.