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Ways of Being, by James Bridle (2022). Wow, what a fascinating book. Loved it. It’s nominally about artificial intelligence but (to me, anyway) it was much more about other types of intelligence in the world — animals, plants, etc. Things like plants being able to hear and remember and move around (at a population level, anyway), early hominids, Archaea, bee swarms, and esoteric programming languages. One of the most interesting books I’ve read in a while. The point about corporations being a form of artificial intelligence has especially stuck with me. Recommended.


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Cage of Souls, by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2019). I’d heard good things about this, and for me it delivered. Really liked it. Some very interesting ideas (including a few I wish had been explored in much more detail). More variety in the story than I was expecting after the first few chapters, too. A compelling read.


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The Nine Tailors, by Dorothy Sayers (1934). I read this for book group. Sure learned a lot about bell-ringing. The mystery ended up being interesting, though the book felt rather slow at times and I found myself skimming through several parts lest I get bogged down and abandon it. On that note, by the way, in recent years I find myself struggling with older fiction. While there are scads of classics I want to have read, I lose interest whenever I actually get into one. Dry. As. Dust. (Old nonfiction, though, is unfettered by this curse. Don’t know why.) I’m hoping this is something that changes over time.


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Avid Reader, by Robert Gottlieb (2016). A fun read, with plenty of publishing history. Gottlieb edited Catch-22 and The Chosen (Chaim Potok, that is) and Robert Caro and Antonia Fraser and Robert Massie and Barbara Tuchman and Nora Ephron and Dorothy Dunnett, among many, many others. I have to remind myself that all these iconic books once had an uncertain future, and many of them changed substantially through the course of their time on the editing table (a useful reminder when I’m working on my own writing and it seems hopeless).


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Leadership, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2018). Loved it. So, so good. It’s a study of leadership (no surprise there) through looking at the lives and presidencies of Abraham Lincoln (depression, emancipation), Theodore Roosevelt (loss of mother and wife, coal strike), Franklin D. Roosevelt (paralysis, New Deal), and Lyndon B. Johnson (Senate loss, civil rights). I ate it up. Looking forward to reading more biographies of world leaders; recommendations welcome.

While not entirely unexpected, it was still sad to read that all four men died fairly young — fifty-six (Lincoln), sixty (Teddy), sixty-three (FDR), and sixty-four (LBJ). (Sometime in the last decade, by the way, my sense of what ages are “old” jumped from the sixties up to the eighties.)


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The Devil You Know, by K. J. Parker (2016). Novella. In the same vein as some of his other novellas — in fact, for the first twenty pages I wasn’t sure if I’d already read it without realizing it. Even so, I enjoyed it. The worldbuilding is right up my alley and there were some fun twists.


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Sex Educated: Letters from a Latter-day Saint Therapist to Her Younger Self, by Bonnie Young (2023). It was good! Part of me wishes it had been longer — I read it in a single sitting — but short isn’t bad. (Says the guy constitutionally incapable of writing a long book review.) There’s level-headed wisdom here. I feel that the book is a good, solid step toward helping our relationship with sex (as members of the Church) be more healthy.


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Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone (2012). First in the Craft sequence. I liked the legal aspect (and rather wish there were a lot more of it), the magic system was interesting, and I felt that the conclusion pulled all the threads together nicely. Intriguing worldbuilding, too.


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Let’s Talk about Race and Priesthood, by W. Paul Reeve (2023). I think every member of the Church should read this book. It’s important. And heartbreaking. I am very, very glad that we made it through to this side of the racial restriction. The book has a lot of details I’d never heard before on how the restriction came about and evolved over time. Highly recommended.


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Booknotes 2.10

Nonfiction

  • Breath, by James Nestor. I found this fascinating. Had no idea mouthbreathing was so bad, or that people naturally had straight teeth up until a few hundred years ago. Some parts were harder to believe than others — fixing scoliosis with breathing techniques, staying warm in very cold temperatures by breathing differently — but overall it was an interesting book. Worth reading.
  • Spelunky, by Derek Yu, about the development of the titular game. Fun read, enjoyed it a lot. Made me want to write a roguelike.

Fiction

  • Whalefall, by Daniel Kraus. Read it for book group. Whew. Intense and a bit uncomfortable. Lots of concrete detail, though, and I learned a lot about scuba diving and whale anatomy, and the character work was good.
  • Down Among the Sticks and Bones, by Seanan McGuire. Novella. Crackling with danger and a lovely dark fairy tale atmosphere. There were some parts I didn’t like, but the rest was good. It’s been long enough that I’d completely forgotten that these characters were in the first Wayward Children novella as well. Interested to see where the series goes.

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