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Booknotes 1.5

The issue in which we drop the bullets. (In the lists, that is.)


Eyes in the Sky was good but didn’t click with me as much as I’d hoped. I’d still recommend it to anyone interested in aerial surveillance, though. Or anyone who wants to be a little creeped out.

Next I read James Gleick’s Genius, a biography of Richard Feynman. A bit slow in places thanks to the physics details (which I should have expected if I’d thought about it at all), but overall I very much enjoyed it. History of science is my jam. (I should mention too that a few years ago I read and liked Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman.) Looking forward to reading Gleick’s books on chaos and information theory.

After a six-month hiatus, I’ve again picked up Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror and it is deliciously good. Perhaps not the right choice of words given that the section I returned to was all about the Black Death, but in a bizarre plot twist the book now feels like a cozy comfort read. I do not understand myself. At any rate, what I’ve found lately is that A Distant Mirror rewards a slower, savoring pace, which I wasn’t prepared to commit to six months ago. With eight hundred pages left, I suspect I’ll be reading this one for months.


The City of Brass was great — fantasy novels set in the djinn-haunted deserts of the Middle East are apparently my thing. I can’t remember if I’ve actually read any others (The Phoenix and the Carpet, maybe? I was a kid at the time and don’t remember anything about it except that there was a lot of sand), but I want more. Recommendations, please.

Next I read Robin Sloan’s Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Quirky typographic pseudohistory is also very much my thing. Robin’s newsletters are always a delight, too. Looking forward to Sourdough.

I started Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon but shelved it after twenty or thirty pages because it was too similar in time period to Genius. It’s daunting because of its length, but I hope to get back to it soon.

After that I read Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne. Bizarre postapocalyptic biotech with a three-story-tall murderous flying bear. Great writing. Weird as heck. (Which is refreshing once in a while. I particularly like it as a reminder that a string of words on page or screen can conjure incredible magic in the mind.)

Next: Will Wight’s Skysworn, fourth in the Cradle series. These have workmanlike, windowpane prose ala Sanderson, which lately does not spark much joy for me. But the action is compelling enough that here I am four books in and still planning to read the rest.

And now I’m just over halfway through Sarah Mensinga’s Shimmerdark, which came out a couple weeks ago and is great. It didn’t hook me until about a third of the way in, but then things got much, much more interesting in several ways. (Back in September I read Sarah’s novel Currently and really liked it. Shimmerdark is even better.)