Ben Crowder

Booknotes 1.2

#booknotes #books

  • Here we are again, two months later. Aiming to get back into the weekly habit, but this may end up being a more sporadic season.
  • I bumped my daily reading goal back up to 100 pages, and I also serialized my reading so I only read one nonfiction and one fiction at a time. Without that, I’ve found that I ignore the harder books and keep returning to the easier ones. Serialization forces me to make progress with books I might otherwise abandon (but that I still want to finish).

Nonfiction

  • It’s been a while since I read The Ghost Map, but it was quite good. Not as much about maps as I’d been hoping for, but that wasn’t a problem.
  • After that I read Seven at Sea by Erik and Emily Orton, about their family taking up sailing and spending a year or so living on a boat. My wife read it with her book group and, with one of my friends embarking on a similar journey with their family around the same time, it caught my interest. The book was a mixed bag for me, but I’m still glad I read it.
  • Next up: Jennifer Steinhauer’s The Firsts, about several of the women who were elected to Congress in 2018 (AOC, Ilhan Omar, etc.). Really liked it.
  • And then there was Arnold Bennett’s How to Live on Twenty-Four Hours a Day. I had high hopes for this book, expecting to glean some good, actionable productivity advice. I was disappointed. About the only thing I got out of it was this passage: “The chief beauty about the constant supply of time is that you cannot waste it in advance. The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you, as perfect, as unspoilt, as if you had never wasted or misapplied a single moment in all your career. Which fact is very gratifying and reassuring. You can turn over a new leaf every hour if you choose. Therefore no object is served in waiting till next week, or even until tomorrow. You may fancy that the water will be warmer next week. It won’t. It will be colder.” Which is great. The rest, not so much (for me).
  • I read Coretta Scott King’s autobiography, Coretta. Loved it. The first half was much more interesting to me, but I’m still glad I read the second half (post-assassination).
  • Thanks to serializing my reading, I finally finished Morris Hicky Morgan’s translation of Vitruvius’s The Ten Books of Architecture. This book was much more delightfully wide-ranging than I’d expected, with commentary on astronomy and machines and art, among other things. (Vitruvius had it out for non-realistic art, let me tell you. Fantasy was not his thing at all.)
  • I’m currently almost halfway through Joe Studwell’s How Asia Works, an economic analysis of why some Asian countries have taken off economically and others haven’t. It’s a bit slower going for me since I haven’t read much economics yet, but still quite readable and overall I’m learning a lot and loving it (especially this middle section on manufacturing, though the agriculture section was also fascinating).

Fiction

  • The Gameshouse turned out middling for me, which was a mild surprise since I’ve really liked the other books by Claire North that I’ve read (The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Touch). I loved the Venetian setting, though.
  • After that I read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Borders of Infinity, a novella in her Vorkosigan series. Well done as usual.
  • I also read Andrew Rowe’s On the Shoulders of Titans, second in his Arcane Ascension series. Definitely popcorn gamelit for me, which I like as an occasional thing but I can’t read too much of it in close succession.
  • And then James S. A. Corey’s Babylon’s Ashes, sixth in the Expanse series. It was okay, I think, but I don’t know that I liked it as much as some of the earlier books in the series. Not sure why. I do, however, like seeing how drastically things in that universe have changed since the first book.
  • After that I read Lois McMaster Bujold’s Mirror Dance. Glad I still have eight or nine Vorkosigan books left. (I’ve been metering them out so they last longer. Ditto for Discworld. Which reminds me, I’m about due to start Guards! Guards!)
  • Also read Tamsyn Muir’s Harrow the Ninth. I loved it, and in thinking about it afterwards, that’s pretty much entirely because of the voice. Looking forward to reading everything Tamsyn writes. (As is usually the case with these novels, by the way, I would love the book even more if it were free of objectionable content. I don’t know why I feel the need to disclaim that, but there you go.)
  • I got partway through Matt Larkin’s Darkness Forged and then bailed since it got a little bit too explicit for me, and the voice wasn’t really doing it for me. I do look forward to reading more Norse-inspired fantasy, though.
  • I’m now a fifth of the way through K. J. Parker’s Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City and it’s great so far. More engineer protagonists, please.

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