What Are You Reading?

Hey bookies! I’m back from a little break and I thought I’d check in and let you know what I’m reading.

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First up is a book I got for Christmas called The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions by David Quammen. I’ve read one of his books before and I really liked his writing. It might sound a little dry, but if you like nature programs or travel adventures, you’d love this. I just finished A section on Komodo dragons and it was fascinating stuff.

I’m also reading The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan. This one is for book club and I can definitely say it is not one I would have picked up on my own. It seems like it was written for book clubs, where there’s a lot of vaguely unhappy characters (all White, of course) who don’t do much of anything. Not enjoying it at all.

I hope that you are enjoying your books!

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What are you reading ?

I usually do these posts on Monday, but I missed it this week. I’ve been in a bit of a slump, but things are picking up.

My current audio book is Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman. Kate rides up on her horse Silver to discover her father’s been murdered and the gang responsible is getting away. She disguised herself as Hate and heads off after them, Colt Revolver at her side. This one starts off with a bang and I can’t wait to see how it ends.

I’m also reading a nonfiction book, The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen. Islands have been crucial to our understanding of biology and evolution for hundreds of years, but they still have a lot to teach us about survival.

Finally, I’m working on There Is Something About Edgefield: Shining a Light on the Black Community through History, Genealogy, and Genetic DNA  by Edna Gail Bush and Natonne Elaine Kemp for review. It’s been great for me to read about another family’s genealogy, but it’s not a quick read.

I also realized I have a couple of Audible credits available, so I’m trying to decide what I want to listen to next.  Give me your best recommendation!

 

Soonish: a review

I received this book for free from Net Galley in exchange for an  honest but unbiased review. My opinion remains my own.

34490192Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything

by Dr. Kelly and Zach Weinersmith

Synopsis:

What will the world of tomorrow be like? How does progress happen? And why do we not have a lunar colony already? What is the hold-up?

In this smart and funny book, celebrated cartoonist Zach Weinersmith and noted researcher Dr. Kelly Weinersmith give us a snapshot of what’s coming next — from robot swarms to nuclear fusion powered-toasters. By weaving their own research, interviews with the scientists who are making these advances happen, and Zach’s trademark comics, the Weinersmiths investigate why these technologies are needed, how they would work, and what is standing in their way.

New technologies are almost never the work of isolated geniuses with a neat idea. A given future technology may need any number of intermediate technologies to develop first, and many of these critical advances may appear to be irrelevant when they are first discovered. The journey to progress is full of strange detours and blind alleys that tell us so much about the human mind and the march of civilization. 

To this end, SOONISH investigates ten different emerging fields, from programmable matter to augmented reality, from space elevators to robotic construction, to show us the amazing world we will have, you know, soonish.

My reaction:

I really enjoyed this book. I am definitely a science nerd. I love stuff like this, about technology and how it might impact our lives in the future. I only got to read an excerpt from the book, but I really enjoyed what I read. The book starts out with the very big and goes to the very small. The first chapter starts with cheaper space travel – because why can’t we go all Star Trek yet and what’s it going to take? The authors break it down, with what space travel involves and why it is so expensive. I also love the style. The whole book is written for readers like me, who really dig science, but aren’t experts at it. Then there are cartoons, because we get a little distracted too.

I would definitely recommend this one. I think it would also be a great gift for the science nerds you love, including your teenagers.

What Are We Reading Now?

Hey bookies! How was your weekend? We had a fun time around here with a trip to the library, a very nice little session of Dungeons & Dragons, church, and plenty of reading! This week I’m planning another viewing of Black , and I have a new book I want to write! Here’s a teaser – it’s a twist on a fairy tale.

As for what I’m reading right now, I have 3 nonfiction titles going.

The first is from Net Galley and it’s called Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Change and/or Ruin Everything, by Kelly Weinersmith. It’s a little rough to read because the ARC copy throws the formatting off a little. It’s kinda fun, but not compelling or anything.

I’m also reading one called What Wizards Ate and Kings Drank by Krista Bell. It’s also kinda fun, but not the sort of book you want to binge read. I’m falling behind with it.

Finally, I’m enjoying the audio version of The Templars by Dan Jones. Definitely becoming a fan of his.

Sam the cat 🐱 says hi! He survived his first trip to the vet, but we discovered why he has a certain odor about him. Apparently his teeth are bad! So expensive repairs are needed. Super excited about that.

Hope you have a good reading week and tell me what you’ve enjoyed lately in the comments!

Encore Review – cool nerdy science book!

 

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This review appeared earlier.

Themes: science vs. religion, triumph of the underdog, the self educated working scientist vs. the elite theorist

I’ve been a fan of Winchester’s since I read The Professor and the Madman several years ago. Sure, he can go on a bit, like in Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, where he spent lots and lots of time on Continental Drift and not enough time on exploding volcanoes. But when he’s on, he’s really on. So I was happy to get a copy of this book at the used bookstore.

I’d have to rank it up there with my favorites. Winchester’s geology background really shows in this book, but that’s not a bad thing. First of all, who but a geologist, or a scientist anyway, would choose to write a biography of someone like William Smith, who never did anything sexy or cool, but simply wandered all over the British isles, improving drainage, of all things, digging canals and mines, and making a map?

But what a map. A map that really did, in its own way, change the world. He’s called The Father of English Geology, which doesn’t sound like an especially cool epithet to me, but to each his own. But his map made possible the huge advances in the dating of the earth of understanding Continental Drift, as mentioned above, and finally allowed us to understand what fossils actually were, not Figured Stones, but relics of previous living things. That was huge.

I loved the cover. It’s a copy of his map that unfolds. I loved that there is another copy of the finished map inside, in full color, and a modern map with it for comparison. I wish they had added a color portrait of the subject as well. Color I guess doesn’t really matter, but the full page size would have been nice. There’s a glossy of geologic terms at the back, but the few words I looked for weren’t there. Oh, and I *really, really loved* that this was a story of a brilliant man of humble origins who made a huge discovery, was ridiculed and victimized because of it, and then was vindicated. How cool is that?

If you are interested in reading about science, I would recommend this one. If you like stories that feature real life triumphs of the underdog, I would definitely recommend this. It’s not your usual take on the subject, but it’s all true, and it makes a great story. 4.25 stars

What Are You Reading?

Happy Monday! Hope your weekend was good. Mine involved a lot of driving.

I’m currently reading 2 books, kind of a low number for me, but I’ve been reading fewer books at a time this year.

8049273 The Elegant Universe is my current audiobook. I *finally* finished the Plantagenet book by Dan Jones, which was a whopper at something like 26 hours. This one is much shorter, but involves a lot of big concepts. It’s about string theory, quantum mechanics, and the search for the ultimate theory of the universe. I don’t really get all the ideas in here, but part of why I love books about physics is that they make you think in ways you aren’t used to. Brian Greene uses a lot of examples that help explain things in a way that you can understand them better. It’s been a fun book.

24357485I’m also reading Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson. This is on my Kindle. I love the steampunk fantasy world that the author has created here, and I love that even though I read the previous book in the series, I still can’t really predict where he’s going in this book. The relationships as well as the plot are still keeping me guessing. It feels like an easy read too, compared to the horrible Ada Palmer book I just finished.

That’s it for me. Hope you are finding something awesome to read. Let me know what books you are into right now and whether you like them!

Criminal Tales

Title: The Devil & Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness and Obsession

Author: David Gann

Described as “a collection of spellbinding narrative journalism,” this book contains an amazing assortment of stories. From the opening story about the Sherlock Holmes fan who died in real life mysterious circumstances, to the final profile of a truly nasty criminal, this was a compelling read (or rather, listen, as I got the audiobook from my library. It’s not quite up to his book, The Lost City of Z, but it’s quite good. I think what I missed was something to tie all these stories together. These were pieces that appeared in print previously, so maybe there wasn’t really a thread that tied them together, but I think he could have grouped them differently or something. As it was, it was sort of odd. My favorite story was the one about the sandhogs, construction workers building a giant series of tunnels under NYC. Recommended, but not so strongly that you should add it to the top of your list.

Review: Undeniable

MV5BMTgyNTU3MzIzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDA2MDY2NDE@._V1_UY317_CR3,0,214,317_AL_Title: Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation

Author: Bill Nye

Themes: science, religion, space, technology

Engineer and science educator agreed to debate creationist Ken Ham in a well-publicized event in 2016. You can see a Youtube video of the debate here. I have to admit that I’ve never watched the entire video. But I have watched clips. I am myself religious. I’m a LDS and a Christian, and I do believe in a form of Creation. However, my church doesn’t teach that it took X amount of time or anything like that. I don’t have any trouble reconciling my belief in a God who created the world (using whatever scientific rules necessary) and in scientific evolution at the same time.

I listened to this book, so I can’t go back and quote things, but my favorite parts of it was about space. That’s always my favorite part, really, but he had some fascinating stuff about what it would take to colonize Mars or explore Europa and so on.

There was a lot of humor in this book, but he talks about sex like A LOT. That makes sense, because it’s a book about evolution, and a species can’t evolve without sexual reproduction. But because of that, I wouldn’t recommend the book for kids who might enjoy Bill’s show. There are other Bill Nye books that are written especially for younger readers. This one is for adults.

I can’t say I loved it though. He is pretty relentless is making fun of religion and Creationists. I think he could have easily taken it down a notch. Just because he can’t comprehend how a god could operate within such limitations as Bill sets out doesn’t mean that 1/God isn’t more powerful that Bill imagines and 2/Those limitations aren’t just plain wrong.

Anyhow, I would recommend it and I want to read his next book, Unstoppable, on climate change. But I think maybe I’ll go with print format.

Standalone Sunday: Into the Heart of Tasmania

Review: Into the Heart of Tasmania: A Search for Human Antiquity

Author: Rebe Taylor

Themes: race, anthropology, class, human evolution, culture

In 1908 it was widely accepted that the last Aboriginal in Tasmania was dead.  Enter Englishman Ernest Westlake, who planned to write about Stone Age implements and tools. Instead he wound up in the middle of a controversy he did not appreciate as he found living history all around him.

I have to admit that I really struggled with this book at first. If I hadn’t agreed to read it for Net Galley, I would have given it up. But I stuck with it, and somewhere around 10% I found it getting interesting. Westlake is not a sympathetic character. He struck me as a rather typical stuffy, pigheaded Victorian gentleman of the time. But the author, Rebe Taylor, was much more engaging when she allowed her personality to come through.

I think this could have been a more interesting book, but as it was I found it difficult to follow and rather dull. I’m not sure who the was intended for, but I doubt it was for average readers like myself. Thanks for the chance to read it.

Top 10 Tuesday

Inspired my recent read, A Lady in the Smoke, which features a railway doctor, I thought I would give my Top 10 Books on Medicine that I would recommend. These are mostly non-fiction, but include some fiction as well.

  1. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. This one is about cancer, and it’s a truly impressive book from start to finish. I was amazed at the amount of research that went into this. I read it after my dad passed away from cancer, and yet I found it an inspiration to read about all the people who are working so hard to find treatments and one day, even a cure.
  2. In Reckless Hands: Skinner V. Oklahoma and the Near-Triumph of American Eugenics by Victoria F. Nourse. If the last book inspired me, this one enraged me. Eugenics was a big movement for a shockingly long time which culminated in Nazi experiments in the prison camps. But it was big here in the US as well, and could have become law if not for a landmark court case.
  3. The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History by Molly Caldwell Crosby. I’ve read a lot of epidemic books, and this is my favorite on yellow fever. I tell you, you’ll be swatting mosquitoes a lot harder after this book!
  4. The Cruelest Miles: The Heroic Story of Dogs and Men in a Race Against an Epidemic by Gay Salisbury. This is another great one to read this summer when you’re sweltering in the heat. Read about the race through blizzards to get a diphtheria antidote to an isolated community in Alaska and you’ll feel so thankful for vaccines and for air conditioning both.
  5. Aspirin: The Remarkable Story of a Wonder Drug by Diarmuid Jeffreys. From its discovery to Bayer’s shameful Nazi connections to modern research, this covers everything.
  6. Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters by Matt Ridley. I really liked the way this book organized, a chapter for every pair of chromosomes, and a gene from every chromosome. It’s not even a little comprehensive, but it was compelling reading.
  7. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. Lacks was a poor Black woman who died of cancer, but her cells live on in research that has saved hundreds of lives. However, that raises questions about the rights of patients in this book that’s now a movie.
  8. The Leper of Saint Giles by Ellis Peters. I love the Brother Cadfael mysteries, but this one is my favorite in the series. Not only is the mystery compelling, but the description of the nursing among the lepers in England, of the disease and its effects is truly moving.
  9. An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. This one is big. But it’s my favorite look at 17th century medicine. It was a time of great discovery, but also a time of superstition and prejudice. Told from multiple POV, it makes the story more complex.
  10. The Physician by Noah Gordon. An orphan is driven by an urgent need to know how the body works. He makes his way to medieval Palestine so he can study medicine and learn what there is to know.