Ben Crowder / Blog

Booknotes 2.1

I haven’t done a great job at consistency in titling these reading posts, which isn’t the end of the world but I do want them to be titled henceforth, so we’re going to leave the unnumbered masses behind us and resurrect the Booknotes series, starting season 2. I’ll be using the #recent-reads tag as the throughline for all of these types of posts, though.

Nonfiction

  • Chatter, by Ethan Kross. This was a useful read. I’ve been using the distanced self-talk idea since reading the book and it does seem like it works, for what it’s worth. Apparently we talk to ourselves at rates as high as 4,000 wpm. (If I could harness that and redirect its output to my laptop or phone, I could write a novel in…half an hour. Ha. Back in reality, answering what I imagine would be the next question: no, I have no interest in using AI to write fiction. Or in reading fiction written by AI for that matter.) the author says we spend a third to a half of our waking life mentally not in the present, which seemed startling at first but upon reflection made sense. Frequent time travelers, us lot.
  • Red Famine, by Anne Applebaum, about the 1930s Holodomor in Ukraine. The last third is where it gets especially bleak and so, so tragic. Now I understand why doing genealogy in certain parts of Ukraine is basically impossible. The book is horrifying, too — especially the parts about adults cannibalizing their own children. It’s an important book and I’m glad I read it because I didn’t know anything about the famine beforehand, but goodness, make sure you read something happy after this.

Fiction

  • The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks. Interesting ideas (the post-scarcity culture, the games, the central conceit), good writing. One gross part. That twist at the very end, though!
  • A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, by Becky Chambers. Cozy and philosophical. Some parts I could have done without (true of almost all contemporary novels I read), but overall I liked it.