TBR@59 Robertgreaves's Challenge for 2016/17 part 2b
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My No. 127 is What We Believe But Cannot Prove, a series of essays edited by John Brockman. This is my ffity-fith ROOT for 2017. I'm reading it for the AlphaKIT.
My review of Caleb Williams:
A murder is committed and two men are hanged for the crime. When our hero finds out who really did it, he is framed as a thief and imprisoned. He escapes but where can he go with a notorious thief-taker on his trail and the real murderer seeking to ensure his silence?
Although I read this because it was said to be the first detective novel, the solving of the crime is a comparatively small part of the book (about 30 pages when it took us about 100 pages to actually get to the murder). The chase is nearly 2/3 of the book, so really it deserves recognition as an early example of a chase thriller. It wasn't hugely exciting but it was an interesting picture of the time.
My review of What We Believe But Cannot Prove:
A collection of just over a hundred short essays (ranging from half a page to four pages) in answer to the question "What do you believe even though you cannot prove it?" The answers include topics such as belief or non belief in a deity, whether there is a personal life after bodily death, whether life or even intelligent life exists outside the solar system, the nature of consciousness, our similarity to or difference from other primates, and speculations on future developments in science, technology and society.
Perhaps better as a dipping-into rather than reading book. It's probably ideal for keeping in the loo, if you have that sort of loo. Some answers were interesting, some were overly technical descriptions of what someone thought was going to be the next big development in their field. there were enough different answers regarding some topics to make one realisee that a definitive answer to some questions is not possible in our present state of knowledge however dogmatic some people might get. The book was published in 2005, and I would like to know whether some of the contributors would give the same answer now.
Volpone and Other Plays by Ben Jonson (15% off)
A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman (20% off, but justifiable as it's my September bookclub book)
The Copenhagen Connection by Elizabeth Peters (50% off - a stand alone, not Amelia Peabody)
My review of Awakenings:
In the years after WWI, an epidemic of encephalitis swept the world. Many people died but others seemed to recover only to suffer from a kind of Parkinson's which led to their permanent hospitalisation years or decades later. Often they were shunted off into side wards and forgotten about. In 1969 Oliver Sacks decided to try them on a new drug called L-Dopamine.
The core of the book is the stories of some of the patients and how L-Dopamine benefitted them until reactions to it took over. Extended introductions give background information about Parkinson's and the epidemic of encephalitis and its aftermath. An epilogue and postscript to later editions give updates on the patients, while appendices explore some of the themes of how the patients experience the world, later medical understandings, and the various dramatisations of the book.
The book can be a bit heavy-going in places if you don't have a medical background, but through it all Dr. Sack's human compassion for the patients and the patients' own resources of courage and character shine through. Dr. Sacks argues for a medicine that does not just focus on scientific puzzles and cases but also on the care of human beings. A wonderful book.
I think that sale had your name on it.
My review of Oryx and Crake:
Snowman lives up a tree after an ecological catastrophe, haunted by his memories of his mother and of Oryx and Crake and acting as a sort of prophet for the not-quite-human Children of Crake.
Compellingly believable dystopia showing where certain technologies and social trends might be leading us. I first read it when it came out in 2003 and am rather perturbed how my reaction to some aspects which I then found shocking has become a blasé shrug.
My review of The Year of the Flood:
Jimmy was not the only human to survive the catastrophe, known here as the Waterless Flood. Most of the characters we follow here are tied one way or another with a fringe sect called God's Gardeners, which was mentioned in passing in the previous book. This is their story before, during and after the Waterless Flood.
The two main survivors we follow here narrate in the same way as Jimmy/Snowman in the previous book, with their post Waterless Flood existence interspersed with memories of their past. In some ways they were too similar so that I occasionally had to backtrack to work out whose narrative we were following. They needed more distinctive voices.
I loved the Gardeners, and the way the book was punctuated by feast-day sermonettes from their leaders and their hymns. It gave the social criticism and the book as a whole more focus than the rather scatter gun approach of Oryx and Crake.
My review of Maddaddam:
Although Ren and Amanda have been rescued, the problem of what to do with the bad guys still remains.
The book follows the pattern of the others, action in the present post-Flood world interspersed with one character's memories of the pre-Flood world. In some ways this was the most enjoyable because it was very, very funny, especially Toby telling stories to the Children of Crake. There was also a weepy bit at the end, in the last 20 pages or so. I think this quotation sums up the whole trilogy:
"There's the story, then there's the real story, then there's the story of how the story came to be told. Then there's what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too."
My review of The Wee Free Men:
Tiffany Aching is discovering that she a witch and what that means.
This children's book is not as funny as the adult Discworld books. It's OK as a fantasy but I miss the satire and humour.
My review of A Hat Full of Sky:
Tiffany Aching goes to serve an apprenticeship with Miss Level. Unfortunately, an entity called a hiver has got Tiffany in its sights, and those the hiver takes over tend to become insane and violent.
Much funnier than the previous Tiffany Aching. Very enjoyable.
My review of Wintersmith:
Wintersmith, the elemental spirit of winter, falls in love with Tiffany Aching.
Creepy, with horror lurking just below the surface, and yet funny as well. Top form Pratchett, except that I still don't like Tiffany Aching. She is more of a didactic device or good example than a real character.
My review of I Shall Wear Midnight:
There is a power heading for Tiffany Aching which does not like witches and works by turning others against them till the burning starts.
Good fun with laughter and touches of horror.
My review of The Classics Magpie:
A miscellany of facts and anecdotes about the ancient Mediterranean world.
It could have been an interesting and fun read but was shoddily produced with lots of typos, errors of fact, and sentences which made no sense at all.
I couldn't possibly catch up on the threads here (explanation on my own thread), though I wish I could!
I hear that you feel like you have a little more time again at some point after having a kid... here's to hoping ;)
(and nice seeing you around Litsy :))
Starting my No. 139, Imperium by Robert Harris, which is my sixty-second ROOT for 2017. The third in the trilogy is my online bookclub's book for September, but I'm reading this, the first in the trilogy, again now because it's more than 10 years since I last read it and I need to refresh my memory.
My review of Memoirs of Hadrian:
Hadrian's memoirs in the form of a long letter to his adoptive grandson, the future emperor Marcus Aurelius.
The cool, sedate prose is just the right vehicle for these reflections of what a wise man has learnt from his life. I don't know whether the real Hadrian would recognise himself in this detached view but he might recognise it as an aspiration, and an aspiration that we seem to be discarding, more's the pity. It's slightly disconcerting to realise that when the book opens Hadrian is only a year older than I am but I have not attained anything like his wisdom.
I first read this book as a teenager, and it's one of those books that has forever after coloured my perception of a historical character whatever other factual or fictional account of the character I've read.
I'm enjoying Imperium, although I want to follow it up with a non-fiction book about Cicero and Rome of that time period to check how accurate everything is!
My review of Dictator:
The last in the trilogy takes us from Cicero's exile to his death.
Dull. I had to finish it for my online bookclub otherwise I would have abandoned it. It reads like a regurgitated school textbook and didn't add to my understanding of the life and times.
My review of A Man Called Ove:
Ove is a 59-year-old widower who has been forced into early retirement. His life takes some unexpected turns when new neighbours move in.
Loved it. It's one of the few books I've read where I saw the film first and they were both excellent. It has some of the funniest suicide scenes since "Harold and Maude" and yet without playing on our sympathies in a sentimental way was also heartbreaking. 5 stars are not enough.
My review of A Secret Edge:
Jason Peele is a high school student, good at English and a champion runner for relay and dash events. He is also gay.
I don't know why, but I had a feeling of dread most of the time I was reading this YA novel. It confirmed my belief (derived entirely from films and books) that American high schools are violent hell-holes. And yet, it has a broadly positive message without ignoring the realities of life. Although it does repeat the mythical origin story for the American slur 'faggot'. From what I understand human beings are, to put it bluntly, not combustible enough to make good fuel and anyway witches were generally hanged, not burnt - that was reserved for heretics. But anyway, a good read.
My review of Victorian London:
Liza Picard uses diaries gov,ernment statistics, and other non-fictional contemporary sources to look at different topics such as Food, Clothes, Health, Religion as they were experienced by different social classes in London in the first half of Victoria's reign.
Absolutely fascinating with lots of interesting titbits that show just how different life was then in all sorts of ways we might not realise now.
My review of Dictionary of the Khazars:
In the 8th century, the Khan of the Khazars had a dream and invited a Muslim, a Christian, and a Jewish scholar to interpret it and debate each other, promising that he and his people would convert to the religion of the scholar who gave the best performance. This novel takes the form of three dictionaries, one for each of the three religions, which give accounts of the Khazars, the disputation, the scholars, and people involved with the first, 17th century, edition of the dictionaries.
The first time I read this, I quite enjoyed it as a puzzle looking at the way individuals and events were seen through different lenses and echoed down the years, but this time I just found it tiresome. I don't know whether it's just that I'm getting older or the internet is decreasing my attention span or because the book doesn't have the same impact without the accompanying hype.
My review of Something To Answer For:
Jack Townrow answers a plea for help from an Englishwoman living in Port Said he is acquainted with who believes her Lebanese husband was murdered. His first night in Port Said he gets drunk, is knocked unconscious and left for dead in the desert. The resulting injuries and concussion give him memory problems as he tries to piece together what happened to the deceased and to himself.
I found this book annoying because I kept misreading Townrow (as the author continually referred to the character) as tomorrow and having to backtrack. I don't like inconclusive endings.
My review of Marx: A Very Short Introduction:
What it says on the tin.
We start with an overview of the life and then an introduction to the thought as it developed with a very clear exposition. One of the few Very Short Introductions where I came in knowing next to nothing and felt I understood something at the end.
My No. 149 was Caesar's Grief: Vale Julia by Alex Johnston. This was an ebook freebie I got long enough ago to count as my seventieth ROOT. It was worth about what I paid for it, and fortunately was a novella, so I didn't waste much time on it.
My review of A Wrinkle in Time:
Meg is a bit of a misfit at school. Her father disappeared a couple of years ago. She has a genius 5-year-old brother, Charles Wallace, who may or may not be the next step in human evolution. Three mysterious old ladies, Mrs. Who, Mrs, Which, and Mrs. Whatsit, offer her, Charles Wallace, and Calvin, an athletic, popular boy from school with a miserable home life, an opportunity to find and rescue her father.
Still wonderful after all these years. Ideas like tessering and Aunt Beast still strike resonances. And of course we have good v. evil on an epic scale -- and the evil is so much more chilling than Rowling's replay of the Holocaust.
Two books among the goodies and one comment, "I wanted to get you a book, but you've read everything."
Welcome to my TBR shelves:
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande and
Night Shift by Charlaine Harris
My review of The Lost Continent:
Bill Bryson goes on a road trip round the US from his native Iowa, first going anti-clockwise for the eastern half and then clockwise for the western half.
It was entertaining but not as good as "Notes From a Small Island". I'm not sure whether that was because this was his first book and he hadn't quite found his voice yet or whether because I'm much less familiar with what he's describing or maybe (ducking) small town America is just less interesting than Britain.
Congrats on reaching your target.
As I usually do, I'm starting a new thread on my birthday.
I've just posted on your new thread (followed from the link in the previous post) and was a bit confused as to why I couldn't see it in the group. Then I realised you've posted it in the 2016 group rather than 2017!