March/April What non-fiction books are you considering or reading?

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March/April What non-fiction books are you considering or reading?

Redigerat: mar 5, 2021, 10:03 pm

Spring is around the corner! What non-fiction books are blooming for you?

mar 5, 2021, 10:51 pm

I am still slowly working on Roberts and Westad's The History of the World. Not a book to breeze through :)

mar 6, 2021, 8:34 am

I’m about a third of the way through Barack Obama’s A Promised Land. Very good so far!

mar 6, 2021, 1:05 pm

Reading The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry and I am really enjoying the writing.

mar 6, 2021, 7:32 pm

I finished They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers. This interesting and extremely valuable history, recently published, explores the role of women in the slave system and economy of the southern U.S. during the centuries before the Civil War. Jones-Rogers uses extensive research in contemporary newspaper accounts, WPA History Project testimony of formerly enslaved people and court records as well to show that many women in the South owned slaves of their own and were simply subservient to their husbands when it came to slave owning and economic considerations of all sorts. Women were often "left" slaves in their parents' wills and were also given slaves as "gifts" by their parents when they married. Furthermore, many couples signed what we'd now called pre-nuptual agreements stipulating that wives would retain complete control of their own slaves and all other financial interests. Jones-Rogers tours the multi-faceted world of slave owning and shows that women were often mens' equals when it came to wheeling and dealing for profit, and also for savagery in their treatment of their enslaved workers. The work is important particularly, I think, in that it is an detailed treatment of the pervasive nature of the slave system in the American south: all whites took part, not just men, in all facets of the system.

mar 7, 2021, 4:39 am

I'm reading The last man who knew everything a biography of Thomas Young, he of Young's slits, Young's modulus and other innovations.

mar 10, 2021, 6:06 am

I'm currently reading Who was Blackbeard, a young adult read that I would not have read on my own. I am reading it with my granddaughter (who is a reluctant reader) and it will also fulfill a reading challenge for me during March.

Redigerat: mar 11, 2021, 12:50 pm

mar 11, 2021, 4:16 pm

mar 11, 2021, 5:04 pm

>9 LynnB:

Should be a fast read!

mar 12, 2021, 5:15 am

I read The last man who knew everything by Andrew Robinson. Not sure it achieved what it set out to do.

mar 13, 2021, 8:14 am

Reading Notes from Deep Time by Helen Gordon - not, as I had presumed, a geology book, more a meditation on the history of geology, conversations with modern-day geologists, trips to sights of geological interest, and a few silly bits about people who think they can predict earthquakes by clouds, headaches, magnetics, heart-pains ...... An easy read, but quite light.

mar 14, 2021, 12:41 am

I've just purchased The Five Invitations, by Frank Ostaseski. I attended a workshop with him once on the Zen Hospice Project (no longer in operation, unfortunately) and found him inspiring. This will come to the top of my TBR pile sooner rather than later.

mar 15, 2021, 10:04 am

I finished the LTER Hot Springs and Moonshine Liquor. An ancestral family history, a memoir, a researched history of moonshine, throw in a bit of national history and recipes.
It's all there giving one a loosely put together rambling discourse which is nonetheless entertaining.

mar 16, 2021, 1:12 pm

I'm reading Keep Sweet: Children of Polygamy by Debbie Palmer. Having just finished Balancing Bountiful: What I Learned About Feminism from my Polygamist Grandmothers by Ms. Palmer's niece, Mary Jayne Blackmore, I thought it would be interesting to read a different perspective on the same time and place.

mar 16, 2021, 4:32 pm

I finished Maya Angetou's Wouldn't Take Nothing For My Journey Now. I'm a bit of a curmudgeon in that I did not particularly like this book. It is a series of very short rules to live by. The few that are more observations are enlightening but most are so often routed that they're almost cliches. Doesn't mean they're not true but merely too obvious to be inspiring.

mar 16, 2021, 6:26 pm

>15 LynnB: You might be interested, then, in the perspectives found in The 19th Wife. I gave it three stars in 2018, with this note in my reading journal: "A huge long thing, loaded with research, remarkably revealing of Mormon history and its legacy in present day--and yet, for all that, weak as a novel, in plot, cohesiveness, characterization, and dialogue. Depiction of life in a plural marriage and particularly of Brigham Young is noteworthy." If you read it for history rather than for story, it may add dimensions to your view of that culture and its evolution. It was my third or fourth book on the subject, and that's when I said "Enough of that for now."

mar 16, 2021, 7:47 pm

Just starting Lectures on the Philosophy of Mathematics by Joel David Hamkins.

mar 17, 2021, 9:03 am

>17 Meredy:. I have The 19th Wife sitting on my shelf and am moving it up based on your recommendation. Thanks.

mar 17, 2021, 11:07 am

>15 LynnB:: I've read The 19th Wife and really enjoyed it.

Redigerat: mar 19, 2021, 7:10 am

I completed The Physical Death and Resurrection: A Surgeon's View by Dr. Jose Norberto. The information on the Shroud of Turin, what it is (scientifically) and what it isn't; was very good. The info on Roman crucifixions and why they did certain procedures was very good. In total, though, the book was very average. I wish it had more depth.

mar 21, 2021, 6:11 am

Started Food and Climate Change without the hot air. I came across a YouTube video of physicist Sarah Bridle talking about how when her kids were born she became more concerned about climate change and started to use her skills to analyse foood production. Very impressive, so I bought the book.

mar 21, 2021, 10:14 am

I've just started David Niewert's Red Pill, Blue Pill: How to Counteract the Conspiracy Theories That Are Killing Us, which was acquired by my local public library at my request. I used to read Niewert's blog regularly years back, and I found him to be a thorough and insightful journalist of political movements. After reading the front matter and the first two chapters, I'm not disappointed with this one.

mar 21, 2021, 1:31 pm

The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History
John M. Barry
4/5 stars
This is a historical comprehensive look at the 1918 flu/influenza epidemic. Barry discusses the epidemic, the scientists who went about researching influenza and their attempts to find a vaccine for it and he includes information about previous epidemics. He also writes about the time period and what was going on during the flu in the USA and other countries. Detailed but readable.

mar 28, 2021, 8:18 pm

I just finished reading American Nations which is a A fine tuning and expansion of Albion's Seed about the 11 cultural nations created upon their inception and holding firm through time, expansion of influence, and immigrant influxes. A very fascinating and revealing way to understand the hegemony of the Americas.

mar 29, 2021, 5:11 am

Currently reading Into the Abyss about the crash of a small passenger plane in northern Alberta. I'm listening to it on audio and not loving the very young "childish" voice for this material.

mar 29, 2021, 8:24 pm

Just finished The Fellowship: The Literary Lives of the Inklings: J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Owen Barfield, Charles Williams
The two I was familiar with were Tolkien and Lewis. Didn't know much about Barfield and Williams.

mar 30, 2021, 3:11 am

I'm listening to Natalie Haynes reading Pandora's Jar. She reads quite marvellously.

mar 30, 2021, 5:14 am

>29 Helenliz: Have you heard her podcast Natalie Haynes Stands Up for the Classics - funny and informative.

mar 30, 2021, 5:27 am

>29 Helenliz:, no, but I can see myself working through her back catalogue. Loved A Thousand Ships.

apr 2, 2021, 3:54 pm

I finished In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s by Clayborne Carson. This extremely interesting volume traces the development, achievements and ultimate demise of the Southern Nonviolent Coordinating Committee one of the eminent organizations in the Civil Rights movement in the Deep South in the early- to mid-1960s. By the late 60s, the group had evolved to enter the forefront of the Black Nationalist movement. I think that, together, this book and Black Against Empire, the terrific history of the Black Panthers that I read last year, go a long way toward providing a good picture of the crucial events of those days.

apr 3, 2021, 9:03 am

Just started Monarchs of the Sea - The extraordinary 500-million year history of cephalopods by Danna staaf. She writes well and is very funny with asides and conversational flourishes. Am only about 20 pages in, but plan to read it on a plane or two in the upcoming week.

apr 4, 2021, 2:23 pm

Somehow, I've become a senior without ever reading or seeing The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler, so I am rectifying that.

apr 5, 2021, 10:19 am

I finished Salt: A World History which was an intriguing look at the history of salt production and use throughout the world over time. It seemed to jump around a lot and felt repetitious as it described the process from place to place.

apr 7, 2021, 3:27 am

I'm reading Sathnam Sanghera's Empire Land which is very good so far - a personal look at the British Empire and its effects on today's nation.

Redigerat: apr 9, 2021, 5:51 pm

I'm reading, and enjoying, Shooting Midnight Cowboy, which is about what you'd expect if you're familiar with the film. It's highly readable and informative.

apr 10, 2021, 6:12 pm

>39 librorumamans: I didn't know that there was a book on the filming. Thanks for the update.

apr 11, 2021, 12:14 am

>40 JulieLill:

That's understandable: it's just been released.

apr 11, 2021, 6:40 pm

The Johnstown Flood
David McCullough
5/5 stars
This is the fascinating look at a flood that devastated Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1889. Johnstown was a small town with mostly workers that worked at the coal/steel plants. It also was the site of a resort that had many famous industry members including Andrew Melon and Andrew Carnegie. Unfortunately, the resort had a dam and that dam was not well maintained and on May 31, 1889 it burst open killing thousands and opening up an investigation into what happened and who was responsible. McCullough does wonderful job relaying the story of the people of the area and what happened after the tragedy.

apr 12, 2021, 11:31 am

>43 LynnB: The Mossad book sounds interesting!

apr 15, 2021, 6:07 pm

>45 LynnB: I really enjoyed that book!

apr 16, 2021, 10:28 am

>46 JulieLill:, I am almost half-way through and am really enjoying it.

apr 16, 2021, 11:13 am

>47 LynnB: I thought I would look up some of her other books and she has only written a couple of books on the same subject. Has anyone read her other books?

apr 17, 2021, 3:03 pm

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson. Tells the story of Berlin from a diplomat's eyes 1933-1937. Not as good as Larson's other books, IMHO.

apr 18, 2021, 2:50 pm

I finished The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson. Isaacson's latest biography is a long an fascinating account of the development of the science of gene editing, as filtered through the life, experience and accomplishments of Jennifer Doudna, co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020. Isaacson, a clear and straightforward writer, does an excellent job of weaving his narrative between Doudna's life story, the concepts of genetics, the progress of the science as discoveries are made, the many scientists that mentored Doudna and with whom she has collaborated and/or competed.

The story of how, over a period of several decades, Doudna and her colleagues discovered the features of DNA and, especially, RNA that allowed them to understand how these enzymes work, and especially the way that RNA is effective in actually cutting to pieces the DNA of invaders like viruses, is fascinating indeed, and Isaacson tells the story very well. He's adept at providing just enough of the technical description of the processes involved to give a lay reader enough of a general idea of what's going on without getting bogged down in too much detail. I actually experienced an element of "willing suspension of disbelief" during the proceedings that I found wholly appropriate. It was fascinating for me to learn, for example, that the genetic techniques being studied and applied by humans now are essentially the same ones that bacteria have been using to fight off viruses for billions of years.

And then, as Isaacson was doing his obviously years-long research for this biography, the Covid pandemic hit. The final section of the book describes the ways in which the academic scientific community quickly swung into action, cooperating in areas that would have been sources of competition previously, to create the new sort of vaccines--utilizing RNA manipulation for the first time in vaccine technology--that we are now using to combat Covid.

Isaacson does not skip over the fact that, when Doudna was a young woman deciding upon a career, the idea that "women can be scientists" was one that met stiff resistance within the world of science and in the culture in general. Her role as a pioneer, not among the very first women scientists, of course, but in the vanguard of the generation that battered down many (certainly not all) of the roadblocks taken for granted by previous generations, is stressed, as is her role as a mentor.

There is a lot more in this rich and fertile book, which is at once a biography of a fascinating woman, a primer for how science and private industry inter-relate in our society, a history of the science of genetics, a look inside the war against Covid, and an outline of the ethical/philosophical questions that we are going to be grappling with over these new capabilities.

apr 18, 2021, 2:55 pm

>49 Tess_W: I enjoyed that book but it was not my favorite book of his!

apr 18, 2021, 3:00 pm

I tend to cycle between lighter, more fun reads and then heavier and/or non-fiction reads. so when I am done with the fantasy novel I am currently reading, I am going to read Class Notes: Posing as Politics by Adolph Reed, Jr. Love the times I have seen him in discussions online and I am finally getting around to reading him.

apr 18, 2021, 4:04 pm

>50 rocketjk: I'm actually reading Doudna's own book, A Crack In Creation, at the moment.

apr 18, 2021, 5:05 pm

>53 SChant: Interesting! Are you enjoying it?

apr 19, 2021, 4:18 am

>54 rocketjk: Finding it a little dry, to be honest. Very detailed about the work done by others that preceded her research that lead to CRISPR.

apr 19, 2021, 11:30 am

>55 SChant: I'm somehow not too surprised that a scientist's writing style would be dry. Does she manage to provide interesting insights nevertheless? At any rate, I do recommend the Isaacson book I just reviewed. He also provides a comprehensive review of Doudna's predecessors, and her contemporaries, in the CRISPR search and development, while telling her own story in depth, and all in nicely lively fashion.

apr 19, 2021, 12:03 pm

>56 rocketjk: Yes, her enthusiasm and thoroughness do come through well. I shall take a look at the Isaacson book later, though.

apr 20, 2021, 12:57 pm

I finished Sgt. Mickey and General Ike by Michael J. McKeogh and Richard Lockridge.

This is a short memoir by Michael McKeogh about his time spent as General Dwight Eisenhower's enlisted aide, orderly and driver before and during World War 2. Originally published in 1946, the book is essentially a hagiography. McKeogh quickly begins referring to Eishenhower as "the Boss," and essentially, other than an occasional bought of temper, the Boss can do no wrong throughout McKeogh's narrative. Well, maybe it is McKeogh's narrative. Harry C. Butcher, who was Eisenhower's Naval Aide during the war, says in his 2-page introduction, "Former Naval Lieutenant Richard Lockridge* has caught the spirit of Mickey's story with uncanny perception. When I read some of the manuscript I could hear Mickey talking." So I assume this is an "as told to" situation, and I'd further guess that Lockridge was tasked not just with putting McKeogh's story into clean prose, but also with smoothing out any rough (or interesting) edges portrayed in Eisenhower's character. So while this memoir provides a mildly interesting picture of the duties of an aide to a commanding general during wartime there are otherwise few particularly interesting historical notes on offer.

As to the war itself, McKeogh (or Lockridge) reports very little. Toward the end there are some general descriptions of the death and destruction that the members of the command post saw as they moved forward, but by design a command post is in the rear of the action. Also, McKeogh (or Lockridge) tells us that he made a point never to eavesdrop on Eisenhower's conversations with other officers about the progress, plans or execution of the war, thinking that what he didn't know, he couldn't inadvertently let drop in the mess hall. That makes sense, though it doesn't make for particularly interesting reading. And who knows if that is McKeogh talking or Lockridge's explanation for why he's taken most of the intriguing conversations out of the book?

apr 22, 2021, 9:41 am

I finished the LTER book, The Immune Mystery. This book is partly a memoir and partly an account of a scientific investigation. The science is described in a manner easily understood by the non-scientist using analogies. It's engaging and interesting. At the end of the book is a listing with a brief description of many autoimmune diseases.

apr 22, 2021, 10:03 am

I'm reading a 1912 book called Sources of Religious Insight that is startlingly worthwhile. It's a set of lectures by a Harvard academic situated somewhere between philosophy of religion and religious psychology. It is not theological or sectarian.

apr 22, 2021, 10:12 am

>60 paradoxosalpha: Sounds interesting

apr 22, 2021, 10:32 am

Reading Unquiet Women by historian Max Adams, a brisk meander using writings, archaeology, and artistic creations to explore the lives of lesser-known women from the Roman era to the Enlightenment.

apr 22, 2021, 3:05 pm

I just read Genius makers : the mavericks who brought A.I. to Google, Facebook, and the world and posted about it in the "Science" group but thought I would cross post here - hope that is not too annoying.

Starting in 1960 with Cornell professor Frank Rosenblatt building an early "neural network" in a New York lab Mr Metz, the author, throws a confusing {but necessary} amount of personalities at you and follows their intertwined careers through the evolution of AI. A timeline and index help with refreshing your memory while reading the book {if that is an issue for you as it is for me}.

A great read to get at least an introduction to different aspects of "AI." and the attitudes/philosophies that are engaged by the science.

apr 22, 2021, 3:08 pm

Some great looking reads posted here ( >50 rocketjk: >53 SChant: especially to me) I hope to have a look at some of them. It has been a while since I checked in here, great posts.

apr 23, 2021, 12:02 pm

Homo Mysterious: Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature
David P. Barash
3.5/5 stars
Barash explores the history of mankind and why humans do the things that they do. Topics he explores, include religion in culture, how did art develop, the development of consciousness, the different life spans between men and women and much more. While he explores these questions, he also raises more questions that have yet to be answered. Very interesting!

apr 27, 2021, 9:59 am

Started a Billy Wilder biography!

apr 27, 2021, 9:47 pm

I finished the book, Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams. The book explores the difficulties of people raised in the working class who via education live their adult life in the middle or upper class. My father, husband, and 2 bosses all would fit into that description and I it was interesting to identify many of the qualities described. My only complaint with the book is that it felt repetitious.

Redigerat: apr 28, 2021, 12:08 am

Books I might want to send to my sister and her family: "The Language of Houses: How Buildings Speak to Us" by Alison Lurie, "The Language of Food A Linguist Reads the Menu" by Dan Jurafsky, "Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty" by Vikram Chandra.

apr 30, 2021, 11:17 pm

I just finished Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and posted my review. Can't say I'm a fan.

maj 3, 2021, 10:34 am

I finished The Five Invitations, an inspiring invitation to embrace life at the moment, its beauty and ugliness without judgement. A book that will come back off the shelf to help guide me and give me courage when I feel too fearful, too disconnected, or too lonely.

jun 23, 2021, 5:09 am

>15 LynnB: I recommend some podcasts regarding this subject if you have he opportunity. There is ALOT of interviews with surviors