ArlieS's Attempt to Read Half the Local Library in 2021 ;-(

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ArlieS's Attempt to Read Half the Local Library in 2021 ;-(

jan 16, 2:49pm

I'm Arlie, and after being on LT for years, and gradually recording a significant part of my library, along with many books I've read from my local library but never purchased, I finally noticed LT's groups, and this one in particular.

As usual, I'm reading half a dozen books at a time. But I haven't yet finished any that I'd started in 2021 - so nothing for me to list here yet. But I thought I might as well start a thread and say "hi".

I'm a Canadian living in California, US. I read about half-and-half fiction and non-fiction; the former mostly SF/Fantasy, and the latter mostly science, technology, and history.

I mostly read in English, but occassionally pick up something in French or (even more rarely German) to help me retain my less-than-stellar linguistic abilities.

I'm going to restrict my thread to books I read for the first time in 2021, but in practice I probably reread 1 book for every 10 I read for the first time, and sometimes more.

In my non-book life, I'm a software engineer, hopeful of retiring in 2021.

jan 16, 5:27pm

Welcome and happy reading!

jan 16, 6:35pm

Welcome! Looks like our reading tastes overlap. I'm looking forward to seeing your reading this year.

jan 16, 6:41pm

Welcome, Arlie, happy reading in 2021!

Redigerat: maj 2, 6:03pm

1) The world in a grain : the story of sand and how it shaped civilization by Vince Beiser

Good book about the various technological uses of sand, and the mining thereof. It's written more from a "this is used for that" and "this is where/how it's mined and prepared" viewpoint than about the technology per se.

It covered lots of things I knew essentially nothing about, which are very much "how the world I live in works"; this is something I actively seek out when looking for reading material.

As well as the positive and neutral part (about uses of various types of sand, and the good some of those have done for people) which one can pretty much take for granted in a book like this, it includes negative effects of sand mining, plus a certain amount about futility - e.g. beach replenishment that has to be redone every few (around 5) years. And much about the non-durability of concrete, and possible ways to mitigate that.

Main flaw for me is that the author's a journalist, and is more interested in personalities than I am, and less interested in technology per se.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, Technology, non-series, 2018, English, male author, public library

jan 19, 6:50am

And keep up with my friends here, Arlie. Have a great 2021.

jan 19, 3:52pm

Thank you all. Happy 2021.

Or failing that, have the best 2021 possible under the circumstances. (Canadian joke.)

Redigerat: maj 2, 6:05pm

2) 1636: the Atlantic Encounter by Eric Flint and Walter H. Hunt

This is book 28 in what's now a gigantic series, of somewhat variable quality. For those who don't know the series, it begins with a modern (late 20th century, maybe early 21st) Appalachian town called Grantville being transported by some unknown means to what will become Germany, in the year 1632. After the first year or two, information from the town, plus its simple presence, has entirely changed history.

4 years after the original event, a ship sets out from the new Europe, crewed mostly by people from the 1600s, with 2 brothers originally from the transported town, and a doctor trained there. They have very little future technology, and most of that's already known to major powers of the time.

It's officially a trade mission, but the goal is to find out what's happening in North America, now that the King of England (Charles I), fearing the events that would have been in his future, has made many drastic changes, including selling all his North American possessions to the French. Also to assist any settlements there who aren't all that interested in becoming French to join together in repealling this fate. Ideally along with any native groups who feel the same way.

As is common lately, the story is told from several viewpoints, including the up time Americans, the people back home who sent them, the 2 French ships sent to obstruct and perhaps capture the Americans, and an Alsatian who'd been coerced into spying (most recently, on them) for the French.

The main viewpoints are the American brothers, and the Alsatian spy.

To someone familiar with the setting, it's an enjoyable read, good but not one of the best in the series. But I'm not at all sure it would work for anyone unfamiliar with the series, and in particular the broader political situation in the fictional year 1636.

It reads a bit more like a travelogue than like an adventure story, showing off all the settlements and the differences between them. Plus a constant drum beat of politics, both on the European scale and on the scale of each little settlement. I kind of enjoy the former, but can do with out the latter; fortunately it's mostly just invoked to determine what is and is not possible.

The book also has the problem that the story feels incomplete. It ends with a victory over the French expedition, with their surviving ship heading off to lick its wounds, but it ends with enough loose ends as to positively scream "buy the sequel".

Overall, I gave it a 4, but mostly because I needed some light fiction at the time, so it hit the spot. In another mood, it would have been a 3.5. (I score books a bit strangely. 3 is "ok, whatever". 2 is "I didn't finish it", and I generally don't record it in LibraryThing, as I don't want recommendations based on it. 2.5 is "I struggled to finish it". This is because I transferred my scoring system from Amazon, where they knew about anything I'd bought from them, so 1 and 2 were more meaningful. If I'd created it here, I'd have lopped off most of the bottom, reserving 1 for all variants on "wasn't worth the time I spent on it".)

Scored as: Fiction, alternate history, series (not first book), 2020, English, male authors, public library

Redigerat: maj 2, 6:22pm

3) Destiny disrupted : a history of the world through Islamic eyes by Mir Tamim Ansary

Very informative and useful history of Islam, Islamic territories and cultures, up until almost the present day. Clear explanation of internal currents - written for those not of that cultural grouping, but by someone who straddles the boundary. Allows me to understand in much more detail the ways in which powerful non-Islamic countries sowed the whirlwind that area has become, beyond what's obvious even within my own culture (i.e. that dishonesty and treating people like things to be used will result in mistrust, anger, and hatred).

I'm glad I'm not part of that culture. They can take their good-of-the-whole ideology and shove it, since it would be (and is) at the expense of people like me. E.g. if males and females are to have seperate spheres for the (believed) good of the whole, how about we assign the group I'm not part of to the sphere that I don't want. But plenty of people in western societies promote their own good-of-the-whole arrangements, not to mention believing in truths supposedly provided by some deity centuries past, at the expense of currently available evidence. Only the details are uniquely Islamic, and the extent to which they are successfully enforced at the present time.

But if you are fortunate enough to be male, or a woman who likes the idea of being restricted to the family/household sphere, and not too concerned about evidence for the things you hold as true, there's lots of good in the many cultures of the area, and lots of fascinating history.

And of course current western culture has its own ways of abusing people/forcing them into being nothing but tools for the use of their betters. Arguably the Islamic cultures have been notably better for the poor (male), worse for the (prosperous) female, and somewhat of a wash if you are in both or neither category.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, history, 2009, English, male authors, public library

jan 25, 5:25pm

I think having something that helps me understand the differences between the various Islamic groups would be a help. I’ll see if I can track this one down.

Redigerat: maj 2, 6:18pm

4) An Irish country village by Patrick Taylor

Volume 14 in a series I love, that follows the daily routine of a medical practice in a fictional village in Northern Ireland in the 1960s. It's kind of like a "medical procedural" series, by analogy with the "police procedural" genre, which shows a few days or weeks of normal policing, centred on some constable, detective, or police executive, along with ongoing events from that person's life - except in this case there's more weight given to village events and personalities, and the daily routine isn't followed as closely as e.g. in the Gideon series by John Creasey (also known as J.J. Marric)

This volume's especially positive, with various story arcs from earlier resolving in good (but often expected) ways - e.g. the poor villager who got a scholarship to medical school some books back graduates with excellent grades during this book, and farthermore becomes engaged to her wrong-sect boyfriend with the approval of her father. This may be because it's intended as the end of the series, or as an antidote to the distressing Ireland-wide events of the period that was reached about 3 books ago, after the series ran longer than was originally intended.

Or just because nothing really terrible ever happens in these books. Bad things are threatened, but usually resolved by the end of the volume. (Medical cases often end in predictable deaths; but they are never presented as tragedies - more as death - and the grief it brings - being part of life. This volume includes two patient deaths.)

Scored as: Fiction, no specific genre, series (not first volume), 2009, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jan 30, 4:38pm

Something's strange here - the touchstones for book #2 aren't showing, at least since I posted about book number #4. The format looks correct when I try to edit that message though, and they show as touchstones in edit mode.

Is there a quite small limit to the number of touchstones displayed for a thread?

Edit - and after editting that post, and saving my non-existent changes, I now see all my touchstones listed to the right - or at least don't see any obvious omissions.

jan 30, 7:03pm

Invoking a touchstone kicks off a search on the server that can sometimes take longer than the programmed-in time out. If that happens, the touchstone doesn’t show up, but coming back a little later will usually find it.

This mostly happens when the server gets loaded down and usually is a pretty brief period.

Redigerat: maj 2, 6:23pm

5) White Fragility by Robin diAngelo

This is a frequently-mentioned book relevant to current events, and current American political controversy. (See the sub-title: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism.)

I read it out of a sense of duty, and rather faster than I normally would - lots of people waiting for it at the local library.

I'm glad I read it.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, popular soc sci, 2018, English, female author, public library

Redigerat: maj 2, 6:36pm

6. The Road to Waterloo by Ronald Welch (pseudonym of Ronald Oliver Felton)

This is a posthumously published historical fiction for children. It was found in the author's papers after his death, and published decades later.

I loved this author as a child, and have been collecting his children's works since I discovered the existence of Abe Books and other sources of used, rare, and out-of-print works. Now many of them are back in print, and I recently purchased the 3 of those I didn't already have.

Ronald Welch specialized in coming of age stories, set in historical events. Many of his books follow the history of an imaginary noble family based in Wales, one young man at a time. I suspect they helped kindle my lifelong interest in history.

The Road to Waterloo is a novella, and by the feel of it, actually 3 sections of what should have been a complete novel. It feels like it's missing missing chunks that simply hadn't been written when the author died - each section holds together, but knowing Welch's other works, I can see some missing connecting sections.

Still well worth reading, at least for a raving Ronald Welch fan. Or for any child who likes reading their history in personalized form, with various famous people appearing as characters in a story.

And the off-the-cuff details of what life was like - e.g. in this case the purchase of officer rank for the young man by his father - and his consequent initial complete lack of military experience, being carried and taught by his NCOs - are well worth noticing.

To modern eyes, the whole series suffers from the usual "viewpoint characters are male" attitude of its era. But who else would be taking part in the various military conflicts beloved of history classes in that same era?

Odds are this novella would have featured e.g. the character's French mother (a minor character from an earlier book in the series) as more than just the source of his language skills, if it had been completed. But with the viewpoint characters male, nothing in this series will ever pass the Bechdel test.

Scored as: Fiction, historical fiction, juvenile, series (not first), 1942, English, male author, purchased new

Redigerat: maj 24, 6:58pm

I'm playing catch-up here. I didn't really finish all 3 of these today.

7. Don't Hex With Texas by Shanna Swendson

Fourth in a series of novels involving an office worker in New York who gets involved with a company that sells magical spells - recruited because she has the rare talent of being immune to magic, and can thus see through illusions.

The series mixes romantic comedy, urban fantasy, and general wittiness. But this volume takes places in the heroine's small Texas home town, where she's retreated to avoid distracting her boyfriend from urgent matters like saving the world from evil magicians. Magical trouble follows her; she calls for help; and a show-down eventually ensues, but only after it's discovered that her family has 2 more people with magical talent and one more immune.

As always, the heroine's quick wit and boldness are even more helpful than her magical immunity, and the book ends with current problems resolved, but the hint of more trouble on the horizon.

If I had to pick the best part of these books, it's the humor. Not heavy-weight Piers Anthony style punning and similar, but e.g. scenes of very inexperienced junior magicians meeting their first gargoyle (intelligent, stone, flying), and panicking. Or the scene when the heroine accuses the bad guy of attempted rape, when he merely wanted to detain her to find out what she'd learned when she brazenly walked into his room at the local motel, having arranged to work there for a few days as a housekeeper. (I can't do justice to the scene; you'd have to read it.)

Scored as: Fiction, fantasy, series (not first), 2008, English, female author, public library

Redigerat: maj 24, 7:01pm

8. Freedom's Forge by Arthur Herman

Somewhat hagiographical history of American industrialist contribution to organizing production in WWII, particularly William Knudsen and Henry J. Kaiser.

This book taught me a lot that I didn't previously know. Unfortunately, the author's anti-New Deal, anti-union, and anti-Franklin Roosevelt opinions obtruded enough that I wondered what bad things he wasn't telling me about the poor beleagured (but heroic) industrialists. Without that flaw, I'd have rated it higher than the 3.5 I gave it.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, history, 2012, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: maj 25, 12:04am

9. The once and future worker : a vision for the renewal of work in America by Oren Cass

Non-fiction book providing suggestions for changes to US policy in various areas that would make life easier for the non-intellectual among US workers - those that basically won't be succeeding in college or jobs that reasonably require college, regardless of training. The goal is for these people to be usefully employed, not living on some kind of dole, whether or not referred to as a UBI.

The key changes suggested (as I remember them) are:

(1) Refocus public schools to remove the goal of sending everyone to university. Instead, have an apprenticeship track, that winds up with real work experience and income, similar to several countries in Europe. (As with those countries, there'd also be an academic track.)

(2) Have governments supplement wages from taxes, so that everyone gets a wage suitable for supporting a family. Do this in such a manner that getting a raise from the employer is a real thing - if the boss gives you an extra dollar per hour, you only lose 50 cents per hour from your government supplement, etc.

Picking round numbers, lets say $20 per hour meets the livable wage goal. There's a table somewhere that says that if the boss thinks you are only worth $1 per hour, you get a $19 supplement; $2 per hour gets $18.50, etc. etc. At $40 per hour from the boss, no more supplement.

(3) Rework the concept of unions to make them more like associations of workers within a trade, providing training, pensions, health insurance and similar things now tied to employment. These unions would sometimes act to counterbalance employer size in negotiation (i.e. collective bargaining), but mostly would work with employers in an amicable way. (Currently apparently illegal in the US?)

This would make gig work less insecure, reduce the negative impacts of losing a job, and counteract some of the current disincentives for employers to train employees - basically by getting the employers to colelctively fund the training function, such that they don't feel they are hiring people, training them, and then seeing non-training competitors poach them.

(4) Fix various policies that result in situations where getting a raise makes one materially worse off (e.g. losing eligibility for Medicaid), and others where taxes are in effect regressive (e.g. social security taxes only the first xxx $ of income)

The book very clearly comes out of a US right wing idea space, and makes no secret of that, at least in the acknowledgements section. This led to a bit of weirdness for me, especially the repeated mention of workers supporting families - while much of the language was gender neutral, I became convinced that the images in the author's mind were 90% male, and likewise the psychological/motivational problems to be solved. But that hardly matters, since they are very real problems. And the rest of the relevant problems are gender neutral.

If this worked, it would be a great answer to the (to me) legitimate concerns raised by Trump and his supporters. Thus there's definitely a need for ideas and experiments in this space.

I'm less than certain that some of these ideas are workable, because of problems of incentives and human nature. In particular, I don't believe employers will report what they would really be willing to pay an employee who will actually get far more than this. The temptation to low ball seems to me to be likely to overcome them all - and without actual competitive hiring to check them, there's no way to see that they are doing this.

I.e. consider a business that currently hires workers at minimum wage, grumbling all the while about how it's too expensive for them. I confidentally predict that once they are allowed to hire workers for less, all the positions currently getting minimum wage will be valued lower. At best, they'll in effect offer to split the difference with current employees. (I.e. you get $10 today; the living wage is $10; we'll say you are only worth $5, and you'll wind up with $12.50, which is a nice raise. Even more so if the living wage is set higher than the prior minimum. This then gets negotiated to e.g. a claim that the employee is worth $7.50 - if the employee is lucky. But new hires are all worth no more than $5.) At best, the employer will put less capital into labor saving investments, resulting in them having more employees in the future than they otherwise would have had.

At any rate, there are some interesting ideas here. And the fact that I'm motivated to critique them is a good sign, given the way my mind works; I only bother with detailed criticism if an idea is at least somewhat attractive, and I partly do so in the spirit of making it better.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, politics, 2018, English, male author, public library

feb 15, 2:39am

>18 ArlieS: I must go and look for that one, Arlie. I think that Governments the world over are overlooking its responsibilities to provide work opportunities for all its workers. Some things in my considered but oftentimes addled opinion cannot be left to the whim of an unfettered free market. There needs to be a safety net for those who need help to find work.

feb 15, 9:24pm

>19 PaulCranswick: I very much agree. The free market provides many good things, but to my eyes at least, there are things it can't or won't do, and many of them are the proper business of governments.

Redigerat: maj 25, 12:07am

10. Some Assembly Required: decoding four billion years of life, from ancient fossils to DNA by Neil Shubin

This is a book about evolutionary biology, particularly about the mechanisms involved in evolution. It's chapters are about individual mechanisms, and the history of their discovery - things like duplicating existing genes, then changing them slightly, allowing two or more slightly different things to be done where the previous organism could only do one.

If I had to summarize its key point in one sentence though, it would be that major evolutionary change proceeds by repurposing existing mechanisms. Some fish had lungs before any fish went on land. Dinosaurs had feathers before they started becoming birds. But this is not exceptional - it's the normal path for anything new.

I'd have preferred more attention to the biology, and less to the discoverers. But that's not current fashion in just about any non-fiction writing intended for non-specialists.

Other than that, and other than having encountered too much of its material already, though differently organized, I really liked this book. (Those 2 complaints got it a rating of 4 rather than 5, but OTOH, I rarely give out 5s or even 4.5s anyway.)

Scored as: Non-Fiction, science, 2020, English, male author, public library

feb 15, 10:33pm

>20 ArlieS: I have mellowed some of my socialist principles over the years as there still needs to be an encouragement to people's aspirations but benefits should be based on merit through equal opportunity and not skewed in favour of a particular gender, race, creed or sexuality.

Where there aren't sufficient opportunities due to structural issues with an economy as a result of, amongst other things, globalisation, well then governments need to step in and develop those opportunities.

Redigerat: maj 25, 12:11am

11. 1636: The Viennese Waltz by Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett, and Gorg Huff

This is another book in the same series as #2 of this year. I have a third member of the series coming up soon.

1636: The Viennese Waltz is well into the top half of the books in the series; I rated it at 4.

For those who don't know the series, it begins with a modern (late 20th century, maybe early 21st) Appalachian town called Grantville being transported by some unknown means to what will become Germany, in the year 1632. After the first year or two, information from the town, plus its simple presence, has entirely changed history.

By the time of the events in this book, a group of (originally) high school girls from the transported town have become mutual fund managers, investment experts, economics experts, and (unsurprisingly) quite rich. They are known as the "Barbies", having gotten their original investment capital by selling some of their irreplaceable up-time toys to down-timers. (I find some need to suspend disbelief here - 4 years seems too short a time to me, even in a booming economy.)

One of the youngsters moves, with their family, to Vienna. Once there, she's distressed by the number of people out of work, and the number of those in work who aren't being paid, and decides to use some of her wealth to do some good - not by giving out charity, but by founding businesses (some of dubious profitability) to increase employment and provide useful modern goods.

Just as this starts to snowball out of control - with goods given out on credit to people who can't pay, leading to insufficient money to buy raw materials, etc. - one of the older Barbies comes to Vienna to marry her Austrian noble fiance, bringing most of the other Barbies as bridesmaids.

To a background of humorous culture clashes, mostly about whether or not uptimers - and Barbies in particular - are "noble" or "common" - a plot to murder the ruler (at the wedding) is foiled, and the Barbies wind up as Imperial Pricesses, more or less in charge of the Austrian Economy.

Overall, a fun read, and other than excessive optimism, and a perhaps unrealistically compressed time scale, it doesn't jolt my suspension of disbelief too much.

Scored as: Fiction, alternate history/time travel, series (not first), 2014, English, authors of mixed gender, public library

Redigerat: jul 23, 2:56pm

Book Stats (idea shamelessly stolen from PaulCranswick):

Books read: 53 (thru 23 Jul)
Books in flight: 1 (as of 23 Jul); not counted in statistics below

Fiction: 27

- alternate history: 2
- fantasy: 11
- historical: 3
- mystery: 3
- science fiction (anything set in a non-magical future, or with interstellar travel): 4
-- hard science fiction: 0
- time travel: 2
- none of the above: 2

- short story/novella collections: 4
- juvenile, including "young adult": 7

Non-Fiction: 26

- history: 8
- media: 1
- politics: 3
- popular social sciences (including self help): 3
- science: 5
- social sciences, psychology etc. (when primarily concerned with research and its results): 4
- technology: 2

Books from a series: 27
(First books of a series: 6)

Language read:

- English: 53

Author Gender:
- male: 33
- female: 17
- multiple authors of mixed gender: 3

Publication year:
1933: 1
1944: 1
1949: 1
1986: 1
1988: 1
1994: 0
1995: 1
1996: 1
1997: 1
1998: 1
1999: 1
2003: 2
2004: 2
2005: 1
2007: 1
2008: 3
2009: 3
2011: 3
2012: 2
2013: 1
2014: 3
2017: 2
2018: 6 (one of these was written decades earlier)
2019: 4
2020: 10

Book Source:
- Public library: 51
- Purchase, new: 1
- Borrowed and subsequently purchased:1

Redigerat: maj 25, 12:35am

12. Network Effect by Martha Wells

I'm once again displaying my habit of reading whole series of fiction, and fiction authors I like's habits of writing more series books than stand alone titles.

This book is part of a series featuring an android ("security bot"), created as something between a slave and a tool, who hacks its built in controller, escapes and gradually becomes more and more comfortable with being seen as a person, having friends, etc. even while dealing with one dangerous situation after another.

The best part is the personality, and the humor. The bot has personality to spare even while still following zir assigned routine in the very first book, before zie actively "fails to receive" some senseless orders and thereby manages to save the humans zie's been assigned to protect, from an attack that started with taking over the system that controlled their security bots and other technology.

By the time of this book, the security bot is believed by most to be an augmented human, and acting as security for a high status family on a free planet, and accompanies a group of them on an expedition that goes doubly wrong. First there's a routine attack, enabled by one of the humans taking foolish risks - behaviour the bot considers human normal. Then there's a very non-routine attack on their way home, that sets up the rest of the story.

More interesting though is the bot learning that some humans can be friends and can be trusted, and the bot and a sentient starship - who'd met in the second or third book - learning how to be friends even when they have serious conflicts. (Both are devoted to protecting their humans - not the same group - and to make a complex story very short, the starship had endangered some of the bot's humans in an attempt to rescue the starships's human crew - and all 4 groups - bot, starship, both lots of humans - and others - needed to work together to get them all out of the resulting near disaster.)

Possibly you have to read it - or a review by someone more skilled than I am - to really appreciate it. But I love the series, and this book was one of the best in it.

I'm sad that the next one won't be generally available until late April, and longer if I wait for the library to get it.

Scored as: Fiction, science fiction, series (not first), 2020, English, female author, public library

Redigerat: Igår, 4:16pm

Not having a simple list of everything I've read in 2021 is becoming inconvenient. So here it is, to be updated as I go along:

1. The world in a grain : the story of sand and how it shaped civilization by Vince Beiser - non-fiction
2. 1636: the Atlantic Encounter by Eric Flint and Walter H. Hunt - fiction (alternate history)
3. Destiny disrupted : a history of the world through Islamic eyes by Mir Tamim Ansary - non-fiction
4. An Irish country village by Patrick Taylor - fiction
5. White Fragility by Robin diAngelo - non-fiction
6. The Road to Waterloo by Ronald Welch (pseudonym of Ronald Oliver Felton) - juvenile historical fiction
7. Don't Hex With Texas by Shanna Swendson - fiction (fantasy in present day world)
8. Freedom's Forge by Arthur Herman - non-fiction (history)
9. The once and future worker : a vision for the renewal of work in America by Oren Cass - non-fiction
10. Some Assembly Required: decoding four billion years of life, from ancient fossils to DNA by Neil Shubin - non-fiction
11. 1636: The Viennese Waltz by Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett, and Gorg Huff - fiction (alternate history)
12. Network Effect by Martha Wells - science fiction
13. Book of Enchantments by Patricia C. Wrede - juvenile fantasy stories
14. Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media Makes us Despise One Another by Matt Tabibi
15. Nodding Off: The Science of Sleep from Cradle to Grave by Alice Gregory
16. How the mind works by Stephen Pinker
17. 1636: Flight of the Nightingale by David Carrico
18. The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris by Mark Honigsbaum
19. Maisie Dobbs : a novel by Jacqueline Winspear
20. Mastiff by Tamora Pierce
21. Tortall and other lands : a collection of tales by Tamora Pierce
22. An Irish Country Welcome by Patrick Taylor
23. The rise and fall of the dinosaurs : a new history of a lost world by Stephen Brusatte
24. Black History: More than Just a Month by Mike Henry
25. A young man without magic by Lawrence Watt-Evans
26. Kris Longknife : Mutineer by Mike Shepherd
27. Sabriel by Garth Nix
28. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
29. MacOS Catalina: The missing manual: the book that should have been in the box by David Pogue
30. Life on a young planet : the first three billion years of evolution on Earth by Andrew H. Knoll
31. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy by Joseph A. Schumpeter
32. Star Strike by Ian Douglas
33. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. von Hayek
34. Fifth Quarter by Tanya Huff
35. Concise history of western music by Barbara Russano Hanning
36. Capitalism, democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery by John E. Mueller
37. Requiem for the American Dream: the principles of concentrated wealth and power by Noam Chomsky
38. Trader's Leap by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller
39. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
40. The longevity economy : inside the world's fastest-growing, most misunderstood market by Joseph F. Coughlin
41. A Rare Benedictine by Ellis Peters
42. Nature's mutiny : how the little Ice Age of the long seventeenth century transformed the West and shaped the present by Philipp Blom
43. Birds of a feather by Jacqueline Winspear
44. Above his proper station by Lawrence Watt-Evans
45. 1493 : uncovering the new world Columbus created by Charles C. Mann
46. Pardonable lies : a Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear
47. The history of the ancient world : from the earliest accounts to the fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer
48 Capital in the twenty-first century by Thomas Piketty
49. Spy, spy again by Mercedes Lackey
50. The pattern seekers : how autism drove human invention by Simon Baron-Cohen
51. Your inner fish : a journey into the 3.5-billion-year history of the human body by Neil Shubin
52. 1637: No peace beyond the line by Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon
53. Passages editted by Mercedes Lackey
54. Influenza : the hundred year hunt to cure the deadliest disease in history by Jeremy Brown

feb 27, 5:03pm

Empty message: reserved for continuing the list of books, if I hit a message size limit.

Redigerat: maj 25, 12:39am

13. Book of Enchantments by Patricia C. Wrede

Short stories for young people, mostly in fairy tale universes, and all with some kind of humor - often subverting the genre in some way.

I enjoyed this book very much. In fact, the author is pretty much "read on sight" for me, both her juvenile and her adult fiction.

Scored as: Fiction, fantasy, juvenile, short stories, 1996, English, female author, public library

Redigerat: maj 27, 11:56am

14. Hate Inc.: Why Today's Media Makes us Despise One Another by Matt Tabibi

A look at journalism that confirms my suspicions about its overall unreliability, but also highlight the difference between mass audience journalism of my childhood (one common narrative for all) and modern journalism (no consensus, just team R and team D).

I've been following the news much more than I usually do, since March 2020, because I subscribed to the least ill-regarded of our local newspapers, mostly to discourage my housemate from buying its Sunday edition at crowded retail outlets. I now refer to that local paper as "fish wrap" and similar, and post blog entries about innumerate journalists. And according to the housemate, this one is better than its competition (!)

(Before that, when I checked news at all it was non-US sources, generally those with government support and supposedly non-partisan missions, such as the BBC - where I can at least hope their partisan blind spots won't match US political divisions.)

I've also been unhappily observing the effective non-overlap of the truth according to my US friends and acquaintances - they either "know" the blue truth or the red truth, including the parts of that "truth" which are fairly obvious nonsense, not to mention oversimplifications.

So I was ready to believe whatever this book said ;-(

And while I don't normally like Tabibi (e.g. his blog), I ate this one up like a born again Christian at a religious revival ;-( Perhaps because of my pre-existing biases. which of course does not make him wrong, in this instance - it just means I should fact check him.

At any rate, I added a number of other sources to my "to read" list as a result of reading this book, not so much in pursuit of fact checking, as in pursuit of broader knowledge in the area - even though the (to me) depressing content made for a less-than-fun read. (It wasn't the writing, which is quite readable.)

Scored as: Non-Fiction, media, 2019, English, male author, public library

mar 3, 6:17pm

Hi, Arlie! Welcome.

A couple of your non-fiction titles caught my eye - Some Assembly Required and the Taibbi book. I'll keep them in mind. Thanks!

mar 3, 6:21pm

>24 ArlieS: No shame whatsoever, Arlie! I doubt very much indeed that I authored the idea. xx

>26 ArlieS: & >27 ArlieS: Useful to have these of course. When you get to your second thread you can copy and paste them to near the top of that one and it makes it very easy to follow.

mar 4, 2:08pm

mar 6, 1:06pm

>32 SilverWolf28: Thank you SilverWolf. I'm late again - the end of last week was chaos, and I didn't even check my own thread - but since I'm expecting a calm weekend, I posted that I was joining in late. (Hope that's OK.)

mar 6, 1:20pm

>30 ffortsa: Hello Judy.

Thanks for the welcome.

A quick peek at your profile has me looking interestedly at most of the random books from your library it happened to list, and I see that we are also both bridge players.

(Just what I need - more books to read - we also share the problem of an over-large unread heap ;-) But it's an addiction; the best I can do is virtual methadone (libraries) rather than virtual heroin (book stores).

Redigerat: maj 27, 12:04pm

15. Nodding Off: The Science of Sleep from Cradle to Grave by Alice Gregory

Non-fiction about sleep, sleep disorders, and getting better sleep, by a British sleep researcher and professor of psychology. (I enjoyed the Britishisms sprinkled throughout the book.)

This one felt uneven. Parts of it seemed like "this expert knows what she's talking about", and went into depth beyond what I already knew. But parts of it, particularly near the end, felt like a rehash of common wisdom that's allegedly scientific but I'm not entirely sure. (It seemed to be "scientific" in the way that the "food pyramid" is scientific.)

The book is roughly organized by age, starting with the sleep of infants, and progressing through old age, and introducing interesting details (and potential problems) at the age where they first commonly appear. Perhaps this is the problem - Professor Gregory appears from her picture to be fairly young, and her career is described as spanning (only) 2 decades - so while she has personal experience and empathy for childhood and young adulthood, and she may well have personal experience of childhood from a parent's viewpoint, she simply hasn't experienced life after age 50 or so. If she also has primarily done research on children, or college students, or even prime-age adults, that would account for the book getting thinnner and less interesting by chapter 8 (age 65+).

I'm giving this a 3.5 - it would have been 4 if the final 2 chapters had been as good as the rest.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, science, 2018, English, female author, public library

mar 6, 8:30pm

>33 ArlieS: You can join in whenever you want.

Redigerat: jun 11, 3:01pm

16. How the mind works by Stephen Pinker

This book looks at the human mind from a standpoint that mixes experimental psychology, computer experiments, and an evolutionary understanding of biology. Occassionally gets into what already feel like idées fixées of their time, particularly re gender differences, but some of that feeling is due to the effect on me of 20+ years of intellectual fashion change. Good overall, and puts things I mostly knew together in useful ways.

Stephen Pinker is pretty close to a read-on-sight author for me. He's interesting even when he feels dated. (The book was published in 1997, which isn't very long ago - as seen from my age. But scholarly fashions change. and the "obvious truth" of all right-thinking people changes at least as fast.)

Scored as: Non-Fiction, social science, 1997, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jun 11, 3:05pm

17. 1636: Flight of the Nightingale by David Carrico

2 novellas from the same series as my 2nd and 11th books in this list.

These two center on the developing community of musicians and dancers growing up in Magdeburg and Grantville from the encounter of 20th century music etc. with 15th century music etc. Both involve characters who existed in the real 15th century (enough that we have some information about them) encountering, adopting and sometimes having problems with what came back from the twentieth century.

I'm not a musician, or even all that music literate (at least I know what a "fugue" is, and what "syncopation" means), let alone a ballet dancer, but that didn't stop me from enjoying both stories.

Scored as: Fiction, alternate history, short stories, series (not first), 2020, English, male author, public library

mar 11, 2:27pm

Redigerat: mar 12, 12:24am

Not book #18: Scratch the Surface: A Cat Lover's Mystery by Susan Conant

I like Susan Conant's dog mysteries, and thought it would be interesting to try her cat mystery. I should have paid more attention to the reviews. I just can't like the viewpoint character in this novel, let alone empathize with her.

I'm abandoning this book after only 40 pages.

mar 13, 11:58am

Unrelated to books: I now have very short, very green hair. The original impetus was related to my ongoing medical odyssey, aka the reason I'm currently off work, which I haven't said much about in this thread - it's not a book, after all ;-( But the green is pure fun, and cheering every time I notice it.

Potted summary for those curious: cancer, caught in stage 1. Good prognosis; lots of medical 'fun' in the meantime. Chemo was a surprise - odds were in favor of chemo not being useful in my particular case, but when they tested the tumor after excising it they decided otherwise. So I got a preemptive haircut to reduce the mess and aggravation; fortunately it had been long enough that I can donate what was cut off to a charity for wigs. Then I dyed it green just because I wanted to.

mar 13, 3:49pm

Well, I’m sorry for the cancer, but yeah, the green hair sounds fun!

mar 14, 8:46am

I'll echo Jim and say that I'm sorry for what you're going through, but yay for short green hair! I bet it looks beautiful! All kinds of good luck with the chemo - I hope it goes as smoothly as possibly for you.

mar 18, 2:25pm

mar 18, 2:26pm

I think green hair would be very fun!

mar 18, 9:33pm

>42 drneutron:
>43 scaifea:
>45 SilverWolf28:

Thank you all for the good wishes. I've had fun before, and chemo definitely is not it, but on the other hand, this could be so much worse. And at day 2 after my first infusion, I'm hoping tomorrow will be better.

On the good side, I'm loving the green hair still, and contemplating a green skull cap to match, for when the hair itself starts to fall out.

Redigerat: jun 16, 1:46pm

18. The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria, and Hubris by Mark Honigsbaum

Excellent book covering pandemics and related fears and hysteria, from approx. 1918 to 2018, published in 2019 before the covid-19 pandemic. Very very interesting to read this while still experiencing the covid-19 pandemic. I've been seeing precedents for pretty much all the things I wondered at during covid.

The viewpoint taken is stong on medical researchers and epidemiologists, with politics and news coverage appearing where relevant, along with historical context.

Being over 60 years old, I personally was aware of half the period covered, and more of it was recent memory to the adults around me when I was a child. It's interesting comparing what was in the news at the time - or what I thought at the time - with the after-the-fact description in this book. In some cases, the difference is due more to distance than anything else - I was not personally anywhere near e.g. the relatively recent Ebola epidemic, and neither was anyone I knew, so I got a perspective slanted by the risk near me (very low). (On the other hand, I had a sister in Toronto during SARS, so I got more of an on-the-ground perspective for it, though she was merely a non-SARS patient who had routine visits postponed or cancelled.)

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the topic. This may be the last book on the topic for a while that isn't heavily skewed by the covid-19 experience, and it's a good one.

Scored as: non-fiction, history, 2019, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jun 16, 1:54pm

19. Maisie Dobbs : a novel by Jacqueline Winspear

This is a lovely mix between a mystery story story set in London not long after World War I, the story of a poor girl being mentored into middle class and a friend of nobility, and a story of young love in war time.

The heroine is setting herself up in practice as a detective, after serving an apprenticeship to a newly retired mentor. Her past is gradually revealed, both her childhood "in service" to a reform minded lady, and her youth at Cambridge, and then as a nurse in World War I. I occassionally wondered at the plausibility of some of it, given the class and gender restrictions of those times, even with so many men Englishmen dead in the war.

Meanwhile, "the game's afoot". An early case, successfully solved, leaves bigger questions, and Maisie decides to investigate them farther. I won't spoil the mystery by describing it farther, but I rather want to.

And at the end, Maisie becames ready to face her own past, and the fate of the doctor she would have married, if he hadn't been crippled by the war in mind and body, cared for in a wheelchair, never speaking. (Maisie was injured in the same incident, but recovered almost fully.)

I'm overjoyed that this is the first of a series which the author has been producing almost one per year starting with this book in 2003. I doubt there can be the same personal psychological depths in every story - certainly not for Maisie herself - but I look forward to finding out what else Jacqueline Winspear can write.

Scored as: fiction, mystery, series (not first), 2004, English, female author, public library

Redigerat: jun 16, 1:57pm

20. Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

This is a young adult novel set in a fantasy universe, third in a series following the adventures of a medievalish policewoman-equivalent now well past her coming of age in the earlier books.

In this case, she's part of a team hunting for a kidnapped four year old prince, against magical and physical opposition, including eventually treachery within her own team.

The author is read-on-sight for me, and I particularly like this heroine. So it's no surprise that I loved the book.

In fact, it helped me get through my first chemotherapy infusion cycle, giving me something distracting enough that I could forget my body, light enough that I could get into it while feeling lousy, and captivating enough to keep me hooked for large chunks of time. I was sorry to finish it.

Scored as: fiction, fantasy, juvenile, series (not first), 2011, English, female author, public library

Redigerat: jun 16, 2:04pm

21. Tortall and other lands : a collection of tales by Tamora Pierce

Fantasy stories for young adults, mostly set in the same universe as my book #20. To my tastes, they range from "really good" down to "worth the time to read them," but I do have a weakness for this author.

Scored as: fiction, fantasy, juvenile, stories, series (this is arguable as not all of the stories are in the universe of a series), 2012, English, female author, public library

Redigerat: jun 17, 5:12pm

22. An Irish Country Welcome by Patrick Taylor

This is the next book in the same series as my #4 for this year. I think I liked it better, probably because of the side plot with a seemingly snobbish trainee who turns out to be distracted by trying to help his mother cope with family tragedy.

Scored as: Fiction, no specific genre, series (not first volume), 2020, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jun 17, 5:14pm

23. The rise and fall of the dinosaurs : a new history of a lost world by Stephen Brusatte

Excellent book about dinosaur evolution, based on fairly recent information, by a scientist working in the field. As well as giving a good tour of phases of the dinosaur era(s), their environments and species, it also gives a great view of the ways in which they are studied, and the varieties of ways to do research in this area, from digging up fossils to simulating skeletal movements.

Scored as: non-fiction, science, 2018, English, male author, public library

mar 30, 9:39pm

#22 is fairly obviously miscategorized in LibraryThing. It's got the wrong Patrick Taylor as author, and isn't associated with its series. Unfortunately I have no idea how to fix this.

Can anyone help? (E.g. point me to how to update such things usefully?)

Note - my author Touchstone has the right Patrick Taylor - it's the entry for the book that's wrong.

Redigerat: mar 31, 10:10am

>53 ArlieS: It should be fixed now.

If you run into a similair problem, you can go to the author disambiguation page, in this case:

On the right of this page there is:
Author division
"Patrick Taylor" is composed of at least 3 distinct authors, divided by their works. You can edit the division.
By clicking on "edit the division" you come on a page where you can edit.
I have changed all "Irish Country" books to Patrick Taylor 1:

ETA: Your author touchstone goes to all Patrick Taylors. He happens to be the one up first.
ETA2: I also added the book to the series.

mar 31, 12:14pm

>54 FAMeulstee: Thank you very much.

Redigerat: jun 17, 5:23pm

24. Black History: More than Just a Month by Mike Henry

This book consists of lots and lots of very short sections about individuals in the United States (and the territory that became the US), mostly black, organized first by period, and later by date (as in a calendar with a fact per day) and then by reason for their fame.

It would be great for someone who wanted to cite lots of black people who did something important, and as an antidote to history books where almost everyone is white, with white race simply presumed but not mentioned.

For me, I was frustrated by lack of detail on any particular individual, and by the relative lack of big picture. I've been spolied by books like New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan by Jill Lepore and another one I can't find right now about black people in what are now Canada's Atlantic provinces. (On the other hand, this book is probably far better for high school children, particularly black high school students, who may be the intended audience - the detailed histories are often incredibly depressing, for anyone with half an ounce of empathy.)

Scored as: non-fiction, history, 2013, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jun 17, 2:26pm

25. A young man without magic by Lawrence Watt-Evans

A boy inherits magic, but chooses to conceal it out of fear he'd share his dead parents' fate, even though magic would make him noble, like his family. As a young man, in a time of political trouble, he becomes a talented rabble rouser, as well as gaining some use of his untrained magic.

This fantasy novel is at least as much about politics - as seen from one young man's point of view - as about magic etc., though perhaps more about adventure and young love. The setup reminds me of the run up to the french revolution, complete with the calling of a grand council. This works for me, in spite of the unusual balance. Four stars.

Scored as: fiction, fantasy, series (first), 2009, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jun 17, 5:26pm

26. Kris Longknife : Mutineer by Mike Shepherd

A privileged young woman goes into the space navy, and proves to be an amazing natural leader, as well as rich. She's on her way to "Mary Sue" the universe, like her great grandparents before her.

The mutiny in the title prevents - or at least delays - a civil war that only the bad guys want. Unplanned, just based on believing her orders are wrong, this ensign convinces the rest of her crew - and the marines in particular - to go against their captain.

I enjoyed this novel anyway.

Scored as: fiction, science fiction, series (first), 2004, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jun 17, 5:30pm

27. Sabriel by Garth Nix

This is a young adult fantasy novel from a series. I like them, but am never fully satisfied - there's too much that doesn't make sense, within the fantasy world - or that we're not told about, in time for it to make sense. Also, they always end with a big "save the world" fight, where many die and the end is merely postponed.

Obviously, I'm still reading them. I.e. they aren't that bad. But they could be better, and the start of the book always seems to promise more than the ending delivers.

Put another way, I want to see the (always) young hero(ine) after the battle, and having a life, not just dealing with the one big challenge.

Scored as: fiction, fantasy, juvenile, series (first), 2014, English, male author, public library

apr 9, 10:36pm

I like the Patrick Taylor books - a sort of poor man's James Herriot. I of course empathise with his love of poetry.

Redigerat: jun 17, 5:29pm

28. Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

An oldest daughter is forced by circumstances to seek her fortune; many things go wrong, but in the end, she (and her sisters) all do well for themselves. Hilarious and diverting.

In particular, the heroine gets transformed into an old woman by a curse, which changes what's she's willing to do and try, and that makes everything happen.

The above hardly does the story justice - I read it from cover to cover in only 2 days, which almost never happens. And categorical description would be even less helpful: juvenile fantasy, fairy tale universe, coming of age, etc. etc. If you like this sort of story at all, you should consider reading it.

Scored as: fiction, fantasy, juvenile, series (first), 1986, English, female author, public library

apr 16, 12:45pm

>61 ArlieS: Oh, yay, I *love* this book! If you're interested, there is an amazing Studio Ghibli movie version by the same name.

Redigerat: jun 23, 7:51pm

29. MacOS Catalina: The missing manual: the book that should have been in the box by David Pogue

I've been using MacOS ever since my then IT department relaxed their policy of requiring that everyone use Windows, perhaps a decade or more ago now. They didn't relax it enough - linux and FreeBSD were still verbotten - but I switched to MacOS as a more-or-less FreeBSD system with (to me) yet another "user friendly" (and hence neither explained nor convenient) window manager layered on top. I then primarily used Terminal - and the whole rich *nix ecosystem of shell programs - plus a few Microsoft programs mandated by IT - rather than even trying to figure out their GUI.

After a few years of working in an Apple-only shop for a subsequent employer, I know a lot of tricks, mostly in the form of keyboard shortcuts for functions that may or may not be in any menu, and a long long list of default settings to change to make controls visible, and reduce the number of surprise misunderstandings of my input. But I never grokked the system, except that it appeared to have been created for illiterates, nor liked it.

But on the other hand, Windows is worse, and even more prone to complete UI rewrites every few years, presumably to destroy any benefit from deep learning, disable all power users, and give their target audience the (presumed) pleasure of starting over as a complete newb to learn a complex and ill-documented user interface.

And as for linux - between the UI designers who think it will be as popular as windows/mac as soon as its UI is just like windows/mac, and those who want the intuitively obvious (to them) interface they had on their first computer (or cell phone), decades after I first began writing software - each UI innovation is worse than the last. Sadly, distros featuring stability (i.e. good testing) and frequent updates are the worst offenders for UI "improvements".

So I'm still using the Mac, and even bought a replacement recently, running the egregious UI dis-improvement known as Big Sur, with ever more controls invisible until moused over, now lacking configuration overrides to make them visible.

At any rate, it was pretty clear I wasn't going to learn much more of the UI without a book, and Apple wasn't going to write this book, so I borrowed this one from the library. Long before it was unrenewable, knew it was a keeper - and also that I'd want to stud it with post-it flags. I ordered my own copy.

My only complaint is that the latest edition available covers Catalina, and what I really want is Big Sur.

Well, that and a couple of minor proofreading errors, where it looks like a couple of scraps of outdated info may have slipped through. (Or not; I didn't have a Catalina system to test against, just High Sierra and Big Sur.)

Scored as: non-fiction, technology, 2019, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jun 23, 7:52pm

30. Life on a young planet : the first three billion years of evolution on Earth by Andrew H. Knoll

A paleontologist talks about what we know about the development of life up to the Cambrian explosion, and how we know it. Good information here.

Scored as: non-fiction, science, 2003, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:08pm

31. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy by Joseph A. Schumpeter

This is somehat of a classic, first published in 1942, updated in 1947, and again in 1949. The author is a rather erudite man of his time, probably more familiar with European history and politics than even the average academic American (he emigrated to the US to escape the Nazis). He didn't like socialism, or even the then developing mix of regualtion and capitalism most of us now take for granted. He may have written the book as a subtle defense of laissez-faire capitalism, that he hoped would be read by more than just those who agreed with him. Or it may be more what it says itself - an argument for why socialization (his term) and bureaucratization was increasing and would continue to do so, at the expense of the ability of capitalism to continue to produce massive improvements in everyone's standard of living.

Reading from the viewpoint of someone born more than a decade after the book was written, and reading it almost 80 years after it was first published, several things stand out that would not have stood out to its intended readers, First, it's seeing what trends looked like at a point that, to me, was history. IMO, this has aged well, compared to other future-facing works. Second, it's seeing what was new and scary, from the viewpoint of someone brought up after those things had become completely normal.

Third, the author was a man of his time in terms of language and assumptions, and the book is probably unreadable to the average modern student, what with "people" being "men", and the odd comment about "race", "degeneracy", and quality (or lack of it) of various groups of people. (Note, by the way, that these aren't "racial" in the modern sense; it's much closer to a class distinction - he regards e.g. entrepreneurs and other bourgeois as more or less superior to ordinary working folks, though probably seeing this as enforced by social mobilty downgrading their less effective offspring, and promoting the rare superior child of inferior parents.)

Fourth, the author is a man of his time in terms of morals and ethics. It's important to him to keep the wages of workers down. Extra money for those at the top of the heap is good. Extra money at the bottom just creates inflation. Strikes and similar reduce the total, and that's self-evidentally more important than increasing the share given to the strikers. I also got the decided impression that the author believed that in order for workers to be appropriately disciplined, such that they'd follow orders/do their jobs adequately to power the capitalist engine, there needed to be a significant threat hanging over them, whether the Red Army/totalitarian government or merely the capitalist vision of those who do not work (whether or not volunatarily) also not surviving (due to lack of basic necessities) - unless of course they had family money. He'd probably have made an exception for worthy objects of charity, but defined those rather narrowly.)

There were some arguments in here I haven't seen elsewhere, that struck me as reasonable when I read them. There were more reasonable seeming arguments that I have seen in modern sources, that probably originated here. It's not a bad book, and the author clearly knew what he was talking about.

I was particularly struck with his arguments about democratic politics as a competition between politicians, with platforms, promises, principles etc. being merely tools to that end.

Also interesting: his theory that capitalism doesn't work without a ruling group distinct from the entrepreneurial group, and in practice that also means they can't be the siblings and cousins of the capitalist strivers. I.e. capitalism does better with e.g. an aristocracy in charge, then without some other class given to a mix of political competition and public service. (He also favors long established bureaucratic groups equally dedicated to public service, albeit while doubtless aso having sidelines in empire building and self promotion.) I'm not doing this justice here, and perhaps I'll come back and edit this when I'm better able to express my thoughts. But if he's right, entrepreneurial types are relatively useless at governance, and worse at politics, and do best as apolitical geese that predictably lay golden eggs for all of society, while pursuing only their own gain.

Scored as: non-fiction, social science, 1949, English, male author, public library

apr 24, 10:55pm

>64 ArlieS: When Kyran, my son was a very little boy and barely reading (about 5 or so I think), he had a giant book of dinosaurs and he could name all the various species shown there. I remember one of the wife's relations asking him at the time what job he wanted to do when he grew up. "I want to be a palaeontologist", was his immediate response and the relative shut up because she had no idea what he was talking about!

Have a lovely weekend.

apr 25, 11:53am

>66 PaulCranswick: Beautiful!

You have a great weekend too.

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:10pm

32. Star Strike by Ian Douglas

Basic military action in space, with fleet and marine (boarding, invasion) actions, emphasis on marines. Implausible squared, and glorifies the military (marine) experience, but diverting anyway.

The overarching plot involves an implacable enemy, determined to wipe out any other technological species, that's once again found humanity, some 100s of years after their first clash, which had almost destroyed Earth. Humanity is now trying to take the war to them, and to find allies and/or leftover technology from past victims.

Or more correctly, in classic miltary action style, some (righteous, military) humans are trying to do this, while politicians and peaceniks get in the way. Fortunately, common sense prevails.

Scored as: fiction, science fiction, series, 2008, English, male author, public library

maj 1, 5:13am

>68 ArlieS: Implausible squared. I like that.

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:12pm

33. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. von Hayek

This is another classic of economics and (particularly US) political theory, which I read as part of my undeclared project of learning much more about both of these. It was published in 1944, though I read the 50th anniversary edition (1994) with added material.

I'm very frustrated about this experience. I read it hastily, while feeling quite unwell, because a library hold had been placed on it. So I couldn't really do it justice.

The book was written without footnotes etc., in the main, and my constant emotional experience was "you say it; therefore I'm expected to proclaim its truth" - presumably because Hayek was higher status than me, and thus right by definition. Combined with a topic centered on "freedom", and a tendency to discuss only men with capital, and my emotional impression was that freedom was only for my betters, who nonetheless assure me that I'll benefit by their freedom and so should support it.

This probably came out of a combination of being too sick to focus while reading, plus familiarity with later "true because we say so" rhetoric in the same political cause. The author explicitly discusses his need to write longer works, not intended for the general reader, to provide support for his arguments, and it's my understanding he did write them - but somehow this little book gets all the notice regardless.

The most interesting part to me was the clear picture of National Socialism as politically derivative from socialism, with intellectual and political arguments - and beyond the part I knew about already.

FWIW, the intro by Milton Friedman (from the 1994 edition) is IMO the weakest part of the book. It reads like a recitation of political talking points, carefully phrased in language that was already becoming passée (e.g the only word for "person/people" ever used is "man/men"; it's notable that the Hayek text - from 1944 - has more variety).

Overall, I think there are good ideas lurking here. In particular, the initial discussion is about the downsides of central planning for prosperity, innovation, and the contentment (or lack thereof) of the work force. The theory is that having choice matters, even if only some use it beyond the basic a or b they'd probably have in a planned economy.

I'm suspicious of this, because I've had far too much "choice", of the kind available to a high status employee, and farthermore seen the choice available to those employees of lower status. I can choose whether to go along to get along, or pay attention to truth. I can risk being blackballed, or do what I'm told. I have no way to found a business that would produce any of the things I can't get from ever creative capitalist sources. And every day some capitalists steal from me, by imposing externalities, e.g. calling me up to tell me they are (still) selling the same rubbish I hung up on them for yesterday.

But my suspicion is much more "don't take this as an absolute" rather than "this is so much rubbish". Choice helps, and planning everything in detail usually leads to worse outcomes than allowing input from those in the trenches. What I don't known is whether "capitalism" has much to do with choice, for those outside of favored castes. (Unless you mean choosing between Pepsi and Coke, and similar "choices".)

Scored as: non-fiction, politics, 1944, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:14pm

34. Fifth Quarter by Tanya Huff

This fantasy novel is a sequel to one that had been sitting on my shelves so long that I'd forgotten it entirely, so I read both together.

It's enjoyable, with a somewhat unique - though perhaps too powerful - magic system. Not a great book, but a nice light snack.

Scored as: fiction, fantasy fiction, series, 1995, English, female author, public library

maj 2, 6:25pm

Aargh - my post 24 - with totals - is completely garbled. Labelling some entries with how they should be counted in it, and also making an off-line spread sheet.

Sadly, it seems even my labelling is typo-prone due to cut-n-paste errors.

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:02pm

35. Concise history of western music by Barbara Russano Hanning

A weighty tome, with little bits about many composers and a hisorical slant. Would repay memorization; would also repay ability to read music.

The "concise" in the title is legitimate; it's based on an even larger work.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, history, non-series, 1998, English, female author, public library.

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:02pm

36. Capitalism, democracy, and Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery by John E. Mueller

This is a frustrating book, with ideas that seem attractive but at the same time smell more politically motivated than fact-based.

Idea #1 - democracy is basically just a system where everyone is free to try to get their ideas heard and preferences followed, by any means other than violence. It's not really a system where everyone has an equal influence, not even potentially. In general, organized minorities trump mostly apathetic majorities. This can be good (tends to reduce persecution of minorities, and allow co-opting the rich and poweful), but is portrayed as a failure of the idealized democracy that's the only kind people talk about.

I think this is an accurate enough picture; my problem is with the idea that this is not just all we should aspire too, but better than democracy in theory. It's also with the specific point made that voting is, in this definition of democracy, strictly optional, and need not be available.

Idea #2 - businesses, and thus capitalists benefit from good behaviour. Lying, cheating, stealing, and simply being rude or brusque all tend to reduce sales in the long term. Once a few businesses clue in to this - which seems to be hard for them to notice and realize - competition forces most of the others to get with the program, and the remaining shysters tend to get squashed by the legal system, with the strong encouragement of the well-behaved majority, as giving them a bad name, as well as being problems for all.

This morning I was woken up by yet another call from some recorded voice who wished to sell me an extension to my vehicle warantee; this outfit is notable on the one hand for naming neither the vehicle make nor me; i.e. it's fishing, and probably also phishing or otherwise scamming. Ingredient labels, by law, need not include ingredients I care about avoiding. We require food safety inspections to reduce - not eliminate - unsafe foods being sold to unsuspecting consumers. And in my capacity as an employee, I've been routinely required to enthusiastically state - or at least applaud - whatever falsehoods my management chose to promote; I've also caught managers telling incompatible stories to different stakeholder; i.e. they had to have been lying, not merely wrong. And I actively avoid shopping for clothes, except online, due to the unpleasant muzak inflected on people who enter malls and other retail establishments.

OTOH, store clerks are usually polite. We have fixed prices for most things, except that what's offered to me online is more expensive/higher quality than what's offerred to people I know who live in less prosperous districts, and airline and automobile industries are both notorious. (Fixed prices, vs haggling, was specifically mentioned as a milestone in better treatment of customers.) Most foods sold are unhealthy, but not adulterated with non-foods or actively poisonous, which appears to be an improvement dating only to the last century, at least in the US. I almost alway receive what I ordered; it usually works; and I can usually get a refund for DOA merchandise. My health insurer eventually pays for most of what it's contracted to pay for, and the contract is only ordinarily misleading.

Conclusion: businesspeople aren't total scumballs in practice, but it's easy to form an impression that most executives are as scummy as they think they can get away with, and few of them have ethics much beyond "raise the stock price so I can get a bonus" and "if I don't do this bad thing, my competitors will, so I should do it too". I thus find the author's thesis unbelievable, unless he's comparing with periods long ago when most people made everything they needed in their own household, and avoided commerce in part because they rationally expected to be cheated.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, popular social sciences, non-series, 1999, English, male author, public library.

The reason for the "social science" classification rather than e.g. economics is lack of substantiation/credibility for claims made, putting it firmly in the "popular" category.

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:03pm

37. Requiem for the American Dream: the principles of concentrated wealth and power by Noam Chomsky

This is basically a US left side statement of political belief, with a certain amount of evidence provided for each claim, but no attempt to appear balanced, let alone address even the standard disagreements - i.e. it's written for those already convinced, to give them talking points and additional detail. I also found it a humorous read, doing clever put downs of the opposition etc.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, popular social sciences/politics, non-series, 2017, English, male author, public library

maj 14, 6:05pm

I got my first covid shot this afternoon - Pfizer - with an appointment automatically made to get the booster 3 weeks from now.

(Not a book, but worth reporting, since it's a big load off my mind.)

maj 15, 10:50am

>76 ArlieS: Congratulations on your first vacccination, Arlie!

I will get my first next month.

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:03pm

38. Trader's Leap by Sharon Lee & Steve Miller

This is the latest book in a science fiction / fantasy series I love.

The series features likeable characters, somewhat interesting cultures, and problems to be solved that are often rather less trite than I find in other series.

In this case, there are two main problems: (1) a young woman with strong psionic talents, whose sole ambition is to be a trader like her father (2) the need to establish new trade routes, to replace those lost when power politics caused the clan to be exiled from their home world.

The main viewpoint character is the young woman's Master Trader father, making it avoid the coming-of-age trope. Though as with any recent novel, viewpoint characters abound.

As is typical of the series, everything ends on a happy note, but with plenty of room for new difficulties and new plots. E.g. I expect to see the young woman, now a junior trader herself, undertake her first independent trading voyage in some future book.

As usual with this series, I loved this book, and ate it up like candy, having no difficulty at all returning it (early) to the next person with a hold on it. I rated it at "4", but note that I don't think I've ever given out a "5".

Scored as: Fiction, science fiction, series (not first), 2020, English, multiple authors of mixed gender, public library

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:03pm

39. Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder

This is a story for children, describing a year in the life of a happy, comfortable child years before the book was written, part of a series of similar books. They are all fun to read, in part because they are bigger on description than plot.

In this case, the story starts with the boy about 9 years old, and continues for about a year. He lives on a properous farm, somewhere in New York State, in the 1850s.

We read all about specifics of activities on the farm, particularly those the young lad is learning. We also read a bit about his school days (which he tries to avoid), and his parents and elder siblings.

Scored as: Fiction, historical fiction, series (not first), juvenile, 1933, English, female author, public library

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:04pm

40. The longevity economy : inside the world's fastest-growing, most misunderstood market by Joseph F. Coughlin

This book looks at aging in the US, and the overall concept of retirement, sepration of the old from everyone else (aka "retire to Florida"), lack of attention from commercial enterprise to older consumers, and paints a positive picture of how this should play out with the Baby Boomer cohort.

As a late baby Boomer on the cusp of retirement, I found it overly optimistic, particularly in terms of the wonders of (digital) technology, and the comfort of Baby Boomers with tech produced for the general (i.e. under 30) public.

I'll skip the rant, and just say that after working in software development since 1978, I actively avoid both the "Internet of Things" and anything voice-activated, and buy appliances without touch screens as much as possible. If the user interface can be changed by a download, ultimately I'll be faced by a tool I don't know how to use. If information can be gathered remotely, it will be, more to the benefit of vendors and thieves than to the benefit of purchasers. If the tool has a battery, it will fail within as little as 2 years, forcing complete replacement.

In searching for projects I could do after terminating conventional employment, which would benefit myself and people like me, I've found that no one cares about tech "surprising and delighting" people over the age of 40. When I express an interest in tech for Boomers I get reactions involving palliative care of the basically disabled, with the presumed market quite often being their caretakers.

The list of tech-based tools I want - that don't exist - is huge - and I'd love to see someone making and marketing a few of them. In most cases, people under 35 don't want the same things, and they rarely consider producing products for people not just like themselves.

This author thinks that the Boomer demographic is so huge, so demanding, and has so much buying power, that business will give us what we want, with just a little nudging from folks like him, even though it didn't do that for prior generations of old folks.

It's worth noting that the author is not a Boomer himself, and not AFAICT not much of a techie either, just a tech user.

I think venture capitalists will continue to focus on young white male entrepreneurs, who will continue to produce products either for folks like themselves, or for folks they regard as cash cows and suckers. Old people won't be real to the favoured entrepreneurs, and if they think about them at all, it will be the oldest old, with a focus on medical caretaking. Failing that, they'll see older people as just like 15 year olds - more comfortable with a cell phone than a computer, prefering icons to text, and bored by user interfaces that stay the same for more than about 6 months - among my many complaints about the modern tech I buy (and upgrade) as rarely as possible.

Established businesses will keep doing what they are already doing. Which adds up to same old, same old, and even more following of the bad principles above.

Meanwhile, a few older techies, entrepreneurs, and what Coughlin calls "lead users" will create what they see as valuable, in spite of the system rather than with its assistance. Their enterprises will receive less funding and less publicity, and will often need to be entirely self funded - and thus small. Many will be entirely not for profit. Sometimes they'll repurpose some existing product and make it useful - Coughlin's book contains examples. Sometimes they'll do "one-ofs" to solve their personal issues - my friends and acquaintances use digital printers for this kind of purpose rather a lot. Sometimes they'll publish via open source to at least their fellow geeks.

But the FAANG of today - and the FAANG of 2030, 2040, 2050 etc. - whatever companies those may be - will be part of the problem rather than part of the solution.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, popular social sciences, non-series, 2017, English, male author, public library.

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:04pm

41. A Rare Benedictine by Ellis Peters

Three short stories in the Brother Cadfael series of medieval mysteries.

It's a short book, and I enjoyed it so much that I read it through in a single sitting.

If you don't know the series, and like the idea of a medieval monk as detective, you should try it - whether this book or one of the longer novels.

Scored as: Fiction, historical fiction (could have been mystery), series (not first), 1988 (stories themselves seem to be from 1979, 1981, and 1985), English, female author, public library

jun 6, 5:12pm

I got my second dose of the covid vaccine (Pfizer) two days ago. It wiped me out; I woke up the next morning feeling like something the cats dragged in, and slept for most of that day, the following night, and well into the next day. (It's now 2 PM, and I'm drinking my "morning" coffee.)

jun 6, 8:07pm

Same happened with my son. I hope you feel better soon!

jun 6, 11:48pm

Hi Arlie, don't think I've commented on your thread before! You have a very interesting list of reads, I will definitely check out a few of them.
Hope you feel better soon from your shot.

jun 7, 12:13am

>84 vikzen: Hi Victoria, and welcome to my thread. I just dropped a star on yours too. And the vaccine reaction is already much better a mere 7 hours after my last comment.

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:04pm

42. Nature's mutiny : how the little Ice Age of the long seventeenth century transformed the West and shaped the present by Philipp Blom

This was a very frustrating book. It does a good job of providing a history of the Little Ice Age, and ways in which European culture, means of subsistence, and economies changed in that period. It then presumes the cause of the cultural changes to be the climate changes, and uses that to preach about (not really even prognosticate) the ways culture (in the broad sense) will react to current and oncoming climate changes.

From the title, I expected a research-based analysis of the changes that occurred, that evaluated multiple hypotheses about their causation. I did expect at least a final chapter focussed on current and oncoming climate change - that seems to be de rigeur these days, in any discussion involving past climate changes. But this felt like two potentially decent books glued together somewhat arbitrarily, with neither being what I expected.

If you want a history of Europe in the period from the 1560s to at least 1680, with a focus on climate and subsistence changes, read this book. It's also got a nice look at some of the cultural, changes. (My apologies for the unclear dates - the dates of the Little Ice Age vary depending on the source, so the author could pretty much pick his own dates. I couldn't find a place where the author summarized the period he intended to cover, and later parts of the book seem to be non-chronological, or without clear date references.)

It also provides an interesting take on the cultural history, which may simply be the result of the book having originally been published in German. (Often common knowledge - and the education that supports it - emphasize different things and draw somewhat different conclusions in different lingusitic communities.) Alternatively, it's original to the author; either way, it was interesting to this primarily English-speaking reader.

But if you want something that connects the dots from climate change to cultural and technological choices, beyond the level of just so stories, you should probably look elsewhere.

Scored as: Non-fiction, history, not series, 2019 (German edition copyright 2017), English, male author, public library

jun 11, 9:35pm

>86 ArlieS: Have you read Brian Fagan’s book on the Little Ice Age? It’s on my wishlist, but haven’t had a chance to read it yet. It’s got some good reviews, though.

jun 12, 1:16pm

>87 drneutron: It looks like I read it quite a while ago, before I started recording reading dates, and didn't even note down a numerical rating. I don't remember anything specific, good or bad.

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:05pm

43. Birds of a feather by Jacqueline Winspear

This is the sequel to my #19 - Maisie Dobbs : a novel. The heroine is now established as an investigator, complete with the assistant she hired at the end of the first book.

She is hired to find a rich man's adult daughter, who he claims has run off yet again in a fit of pique. Of course nothing is as simple as it seems, and the roots of the problem lie in World War I.

Meanwhile, the assistant is acting strange, also for reasons rooted in the war, which also need to be dealt with.

And her father is injured in a workplace accident, leading to farther psychological and relationship growth for both of them.

Overall, the same pattern as the first book: a case that's more than it seems; psychological issues and development; the atmosphere of England a decade or so after World War I. (The next book in the series is the first where I noticed a date; it begins in Sept. 1930.)

I like this series a lot, and have already begun the third book, which should be appearing here soon. The flaws are much the same as with the first book: (1) some level of implausibility in the presentation of 1920s attitudes and (2) my concern that there's only so much psychological growth a protagonist can go through, yet there are an awful lot of books in the series.

I gave this book a 4.

Scored as: fiction, mystery, series (not first), 2004, English, female author, public library

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:05pm

44. Above his proper station by Lawrence Watt-Evans

This is the sequel to my #25 - A young man without magic

Anrel's adventures continue, mostly in the capital city. The politics becomes even more vicious as the situation in the country worsens.

It's hard to say more without spoliers, but I enjoyed it a lot, and would have been happy for there to be a sequel. (That's unlikely - the first 2 books in the series were published in 2009 and 2011, and there's no sequel yet, as far as Library Thing knows.)

The setting once again reminds me of the French Revolution, but now with The Terror beginning.

Scored as: fiction, fantasy, series (not first), 2011, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jun 17, 5:45pm

I'm making progress with compiling the data to fix up post #24, with various totals. I've been doing this offline, using a spreadsheet, and have learned a fair bit about spreadsheet programming in the process. Only 7 more books to add to the spreadsheet, and I'll be ready to put the correct totals back into post #24, complete with all the books I've read since post 72 of this thread (10 so far).

In other news, my housemate has finally gotten her first covid shot, and I'll be 2 weeks past my second shot as of tomorrow. I feel especially relieved about the housemate, as things are opening up enthusiastically locally, and the PTB would rather issue orders than explain what basis, if any, they have for those orders. I think the local case numbers are low enough to justify the reopening, even with the prospect of more contagious variants, but it seems that key data that would be needed to be sure of this aren't being collected.

Also, I've only got 2 more weeks of active cancer treatment to go, not counting the hormone blockers I'll be on for the next 5 years or more. I'll still be recovering for a while - I'm absolutely not my normal self physically, and it'll take time (perhaps a lot of time given my age) to get my strength, flexibility, and stamina back. But I can see the end of the tunnel!

jun 17, 7:56pm

Unless I dreamed it, someone who I follow in this group posted about a science fiction book involving a character named "bob", an artificial entity with personality and memories that had started as a human, cryogenically frozen upon death. He's tasked with traveling to another star and setting up automated factories etc., replicating himself and sending the copies out to do the same again. (There was much more in the posted review.)

I made the mistake of not recording the name of the book or its author, and now can't find the post - maybe it was a review rather than a posting in this group, or maybe it was by someone I don't follow, or so old didn't search back that far....

If anyone has any idea whose post I'm remembering, or what book, I find I'd like to locate and read it, even though I expect it to be somewhat of a "Marty Stu" (the likely Marty Stuishness being why I didn't record the data when I first saw it).

jun 17, 9:56pm

Oh, you’re looking for the Bobiverse books. They’re great!

Redigerat: jun 17, 10:14pm

>93 drneutron: Thank you. That was the search key I needed, and now I see there are 4 of them:

ETA: And now I see you'd linked to the same page I put in here a a non-wrapped URL ;-(

jun 18, 8:04am

>91 ArlieS: Yay for the end of the tunnel being in sight! That's great news!

jun 18, 8:42am

>24 ArlieS: No question of stealing; I'm more than happy to share!! :D

>91 ArlieS: Your final paragraph was especially heartening. I hope you will remain clear well beyond that 5 years.

jun 18, 9:26pm

>94 ArlieS: One of the new features added recently was a touchstone for series - one set of square brackets for title, two for author, three for series.

jun 19, 7:57am

>91 ArlieS: Good luck going through 2 more weeks of treatment, Arlie. Good to know the end is in sight.

Redigerat: jun 23, 8:05pm

45. 1493 : uncovering the new world Columbus created by Charles C. Mann

This book discusses the biological changes resulting from renewed contact between the Americas and the rest of the world. It does this in a more or less historical style, but the real focus is on crops, pests, microbes, and humans crossing from one side to the other, and mingling with (and affecting) what was already there.

Very good overall, and I learned a lot even though it turned out that I'd already read a number of his sources.

Scored as: Non-fiction, history, not series, 2011, English, male author, public library.

Redigerat: jun 24, 12:20am

46. Pardonable lies : a Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear

This is the third mystery in the Maisie Dobbs series, which also includes my #19 and #43 for this year.

It continues the same successful formula - mixing mystery with personal growth, now including growth of clients, witnesses, and others outside of the protagonist's usual circle.

It also continues to skate the edge of what I think of as normal for the time and place - 90 years ago in England. Maisie is surprisingly enlightened about social issues still controversial today, and close to unmentionable as recently as 40 years ago. I'm beginning to think this series is in part about not how the period was, but how it should have been, in somehat of the manner of the SCA. But I'll forgive them this, because the author is the product of her own time and place, and especially because the stories are great reading.

Rated 4

Scored as: fiction, mystery, series (not first), 2005, English, female author, public library

jun 25, 8:14pm

47. The history of the ancient world : from the earliest accounts to the fall of Rome by Susan Wise Bauer

This book attempts to follow the history of pretty much everywhere that developed or borrowed a written language which has since been deciphered, from the development of writing through the fall of Rome. It proceeds more or less chronologically, interleaving discussion of events happening at roughly the same time, usually in seperate short chapters. Timelines are provided to help relate the chapters.

This worked really well for the earliest periods, where I don't recall every encountering such an approach before - at least not one that included Asian civilizations. If the book had ended at about the time of the fall of Troy, I'd be a very satisfied reviewer.

Unfortunately, as the book gets to periods where much more is known, it leaves out far too much. The focus is almost entirely on rulers and wars.

E.g. there is little or no mention of literature, other than that which contains information about rulers and wars. And that literature is far too frequently taken at face value; I was particularly struck by the mostly uncritical acceptance and repetition of Old Testament accounts - especially it seemed when they lacked external coroboration. But once I was watching for it, I saw the same thing happening with other material.

With nothing much but rulers and wars, the various early civilizations tended to blur into one another, and I think the same thing would have happened with later ones, if I hadn't known more about them from other accounts.

This book might be useful as a big picture framework for a class or study program that went into depth on some of the civilizations. But even for that purpose I'd break it into two parts: perhaps Ancient and Classical periods, with the classical period starting with post-Homeric, post-Minoan Greece.

For what it's worth, I read this book as a result of reading a good review of the third book in the series, focussed on the Renaissance. I'm curious to find out whether the third volume - and for that matter the second - also focusses on rulers and wars.

Scored as: Non-fiction, history, series (first), 2007, English, female author, public library.

jun 26, 7:02pm

Yeah, they tend to focus on kings and wars as well. For me, they were good summaries of how the different regions interacted and shifted, especially in areas of the world where my knowledge of kingdoms and nations is pretty sparse.

Redigerat: jul 3, 6:38pm

not #48. The language instinct : how the mind creates language by Steven Pinker

This book discusses what the innate structure of human language, and infants' built-in program for learning their local language(s), from phonemes to grammar, along with a generally immense vocabulary. There are lots of references to research, and my only complaint is that it's a bit dated.

It makes an attempt to explain lots of details of language structure using terminology and metaphors I already knew, both from learning several human languages and from studying computer languages. (Computer languages have formal grammars which completely define them; Pinker uses a very suimilar structure for describing elements of natural language grammar and of "mentalese", aka the way the ideas emitted as language are internally stored and processed.) I don't know how well these descriptions would work for a truly naive lay person; I suspect many would be overwhelmed and space out - but for me, they added a lot.

The book was published in 1994, but this edition from 2007 has an extra section describing more recent research, complete with its own notes and bibliography. So it's only 14 years behind current research, rather than 27. But I'd still love to read an up-to-the-minute verison.

Scored as: Non-fiction, social science, not series, 1994, English, male author, public library.

Edit: oops; AFAICT I'd already read this - so it doesn't count

jul 2, 4:21pm

Oops - according to my library thing catalog, I own a copy of #48, which means I'd already read it once, and hence it doesn't count.

jul 4, 2:30pm

>104 ArlieS: Why would a re-read not count?
Some books I read twice or even more, and I count them each time I read them.
But it is your thread, and your rules!

jul 4, 2:50pm

>105 FAMeulstee: When I started, I decided not to count rereads, so I want to stay consistent - no other reason.

Redigerat: jul 7, 6:19pm

real #48 Capital in the twenty-first century by Thomas Piketty

This huge book looks at inequality - of income, wealth, and inheritance - by the numbers - tax records and similar - and comes to conclusions informed by data rather than primarily by theory. (Sadly, this seems to be a tad unusual among writings about economic matters.) It's a bit of a heavy read, but worth the slog, though the basic message could have been summarized in a third of the length - if it had been, there'd be no reason to believe it, beyond the usual respect for professional authority, aka "the author is a presumably respected economist, so he must be right - just as right as the other respected economists who come to contradictory conclusions ;-(".

The basic message is that capital accumulates(*), leading to increasing inequality, and the normal state is for most wealthy people to have gotten that way primarily by inheritance, espcially the 0.1% and 0.01%. The exceptions are mostly periods after major destruction (e.g. wars) and confiscations. In particular, the baby boom is anamolous - much capital was destroyed by world war II, before recovery from world war I was complete, and still more was nationalized or otherwise confiscated, leaving the heirs of those rich before the war(s) on a much more level plane with everyone else, and producing a temporary situation where non-inherited wealth was unusually important even at higher wealth levels. Many of us regard the 1950s (etc.) as an ideal to be aspired to, but we're unlikely to get there from here without something equally drastic.

The author shares the ideal, and proposes a world-wide (or at least continent-wide) progressive tax on wealth as a way to get closer to this ideal. (The alternatives he sees are either farther increases in hereditary inequality throughout the 21st century, or major destruction of capital due to war or other catastrophes.)

(*) Phrased as I did, "capital accumulates" is just a truism. Looking a bit deeper, the cause is that returns on investment are usually higher than returns on growth (both productivity increase and increas in size of the work force). When this is not true (rebuilding after major destruction, catching up to other countries' tech levels, gigantic baby booms, etc.) there's not such a gulf in expectations. Also, the more capital one has, the higher the returns one can get (on average) and (at the high end) the less one can possibly consume. So the rich get richer, essentially without trying.

For the record, he's not saying that it's not possible for someone without inherited wealth to become wealth. He's also not saying that the children of the rich alwas remain rich; some fall out of whatever grade of wealth they grew up in. He's talking about proportions. One "self made" person in a group of heirs does not contradict his thesis. Etc. etc.

He also ignores effects of discrimination and prejudice, except perhaps that based on wealth. When it comes to individuals, he's using an entirely financial lens. That's not a deficiency, in my eyes; plenty of other authors handle that topic, and there's no point in any book trying to cover everything; also, the data he's using doesn't label people by race, religion, etc. etc., making differentiating become somewhat of a guessing game at best.

Strong recommend, especially if you share my twitch of automatically disbelieving anything stated as true without any evidence being provided, but are interested in economics. Note however that the bhook is 685 pages long, with farther supporting data available on-line.

Note: I read this in English translation; it was first published in French.

Scored as: Non-fiction, social science (economics), not series, 2014, English, male author, public library.

Redigerat: jul 11, 1:41am

49. Spy, spy again by Mercedes Lackey

This is another installment of a series I love. The series is light and tends towards fantasy wish fulfillment, and is moreover prone to coming-of-age stories, and this one fits the pattern.

This one farther delineates the culture of the SleepGivers, a clan of assassins who've come into several previous novels, first as adversaries and then as friends.

Mostly though it's an adventure populated by young people who are impressively above average even for their elite careers, who face terrible risks but always eventually surmount them - much like most of the recent books in the series. (Earlier books in this group of related series had characters who were less exceptional, and important secondary characters sometimes died, but not in any books I remember from the last decade or more.)

I gave it a 4, not for any kind of depth, but for being a good example of what it tries to be - wish fulfillment fantasy for young people.

Scored as: fiction, fantasy, series (not first), 2020, English, female author, public library

jul 11, 1:40am

I've reached a milestone in cataloging my library - I've now catalogued all of my fiction that I've actually read. I've got at least as much non-fiction still to tackle (very little of that is catalogued), and then there are my out of control stacks of unread books. But (read) fiction is done, and I'm rather pleased with myself.

jul 11, 2:40pm

That’s great!

Redigerat: jul 13, 2:09pm

50. The pattern seekers : how autism drove human invention by Simon Baron-Cohen

This book attempts to contrast systemizing and empathy brains (human personality types), associate the former with invention, exclude other types of invention, and associate the systemizing brain with autism.

In particular, the theory is that both systemizing and empathy arose in anatomically modern humans at about the same time, a mere 70,000 or so years ago, and all true invention (not merely stumbling on solutions by accident and remembering them) comes from the systemizing trait, which no other animal has. Individuals tend to favor either systemizing or empathy; most invention comes from those specialized in systemizing, many of whom are on the autistic spectrum. No other species truly invents, not even earlier generations of anatomically modern humans, aka homo sapiens.

It doesn't establish this to my satisfaction. I kept spotting logic/science problems. Some arguments relied on assuming their conclusions, or using blatantly higher standards of proof for anything the author disagreed with. Sometimes only supporting evidence was cited; the existence of problematic evidence was ignored. There were also several stories presumably intended to provoke sympathy/empathy for specific autistic individuals, along with usual claims that specific famous people were autistic.

This is of course standard operating procedure for many popular books, where the standard of Truth is often somewhere between "does it make me feel good?" and "do I like the person who claims it?" But this book tried to present itself as scientific, triggering me to read it from the left side of my brain.

As it happens, I am a somewhat autistic person from a family with many formal autism diagnoses. I want to believe good things about my fellow autistics. I very much want to believe that autism generally gives advantages as well as disadvantages - as it has indeed done in my personal, mild and possibly undiagnosable situation.

But this book didn't do it for me. I do tend to hypothesize that one function of autistic traits in human groups is to provide new, non-conformist ways of doing things, when times change and the former social patterns become maladaptive. It's easy to think outside of the box when you have trouble seeing the box at all ;-) But that's different from the process described in this book, which also totally failed to ring true to my personal experience. (I think I'd be called a systemizer by anyone not getting their definition from this book - but I sure don't do it the way this author describes.)

I'm giving it a 3, because the author did try, and because anything below 3 usually means I didn't even finish the book.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, social science, 2020, English, male author, public library

jul 20, 12:46pm

51. Your inner fish : a journey into the 3.5-billion-year history of the human body by Neil Shubin

A mix of information about origins of various organs, and descriptions of fossil-hunting and similar scientific pursuits. I enjoyed it, and learned some new things (e.g. about hiccups).

Scored as: Non-Fiction, science, 2008, English, male author, public library

Redigerat: jul 23, 3:07pm

52. 1637: No peace beyond the line by Eric Flint and Charles E. Gannon

This book shares the distinction, with #49 (above), #51 (above), #53 (below) and others not yet read, of being the first books picked up by me in the library this year, rather than by curbside pickup. The others were all holds, so simply taken from the hold shelf to the checkout machine - but this one was grabbed from the new books shelf without a hold.

Yet another novel from the same series as my #2, #11 and #17. You might conclude, correctly, that I'll read almost anything from this series.

This time the action takes place in a Caribbean very much altered by changes that have already taken place, where the Dutch are rather successfully fighting the Spanish, even though they are at peace in Europe. Both sides have upgraded their tech based on information from the future, but the Dutch are more-or-less allied with the inadvertent time travelers, and one of those travelers is a main character.

Scored as: Fiction, alternate history, series (not first), 2020, English, male author, public library

jul 23, 2:32pm

53. Passages editted by Mercedes Lackey

An anthology of stories set in the world of Valdemar - 14th in a series. This one's very heavy on people dealing with their own internal problems, often grief and/or feelings of uselessness. They remain enjoyable, but not quite what I'd have preferred.

Scored as: Fiction, fantasy, stories, series (not first), 2020, English, mixed authors, public library

Igår, 4:24pm

54. Influenza : the hundred year hunt to cure the deadliest disease in history by Jeremy Brown

Good book about influenza, mostly from the 1918 epidemic forward, with the added benefit of being written recently, but before the covid pandemic. The author is an emergency room doctor as well as a researcher, which gave it an interesting focus.

See my #18 for another example of a book discussing pandemics, past, future, and mis-predicted, from a pre-covid position; so many of the surprising issues and ineptitude seen during covid have echoes in past events, but at least in this case, some things that won't work for covid are presumed to be solid, even though the author mentions plenty of ways in which he believes we are not ready for e.g. a 1918 style flu epidemic.

Scored as: Non-Fiction, science, 2018, English, male author, public library