As far as A Distant Mirror goes, I spoke too soon. Mired in the uninteresting-to-me Battle of Poitiers, I ended up abandoning the book once more. I now expect this to be a tome I read over several years, a hundred pages here and a hundred there. Which is something I’ve come to terms with.
I just finished John Seabrook’s The Song Machine, which I read in the hope of learning more about the process behind creating hit songs — anthropologically, not as something I intend to try myself. The dissonance between the hits the book covered and my own taste in music (film scores, some Broadway, hymns), however, ended up being strong enough that I didn’t really care for the history. Probably should have bailed early on. People who like pop and rock and hip hop, though, would probably like this book. (I hate earworms. So. Much.)
And mere minutes ago I began Madeleine Albright’s Madam Secretary, about her time as U.S. Secretary of State. Memoirs sometimes irritate me — overall, I think I’ve found that I prefer biographies — but I’m hoping this one doesn’t veer in that direction. And apparently this is the curmudgeon post where I get all my kvetching in.
Shimmerdark ended well. Enjoyed it.
After that, I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Buried Giant. The haunting Arthurian atmosphere was delicious, though I wish there had been more actual Arthurian elements. (Which just means I need to go find those sorts of books. This book doesn’t actually need to change.) Lovely prose, lovely character voices (or voice, rather — they all felt somewhat the same to me, but in a wonderful way that felt appropriate to the storytelling). And the boatman metaphor! Whew. I read The Remains of the Day just over a year ago and loved it, and I’m looking forward to Never Let Me Go and Klara and the Sun.
Lastly, I picked Cryptonomicon back up again and am now a third of the way through. Definitely earthy. Also, I knew that Stephenson is notorious for what you might call info dumps, but they’ve turned out to be fascinating, and the writing is so compelling and readable that I actually look forward to them almost as much as I do the story itself.
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.)