Down the Docks

September 22, 2008

Recent Reading

Filed under: Books — ealing @ 9:45 pm

Yeah, it’s been a while. You get what you pay for, right? And since it’s been so long, these reviews are streamlined.

Fiction

Matter, Iain M. Banks
I can’t get enough of Banks’s Culture, so I wasn’t surprised when I really enjoyed this one. It’s a monster compared to his earlier novels, nearly 600 pages. More tiny people amongst the megastructures.

Halting State, Charles Stross
I mentioned this one back in January, since it seemed to have been only weeks ahead of reality. Like some other Stross novels, the plots turn over quicker and quicker as the story reached its conclusion. I felt like I was starting to lose it near the end, but it was still fun, and hugely imaginative.

Saturn’s Children, Charles Stross
Stross conjures up yet another universe with enough character to convince. I’m not totally sold on the actual plot in this one – yet again it moves faster and faster toward the end. What left me confused wasn’t the final plot movement, but the loose-end collection – I’d put most of it out of my mind in order to keep following. The thing is, this book was still immensely enjoyable anyway. 

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
This one deserves its big reputation. I recognised a worryingly large part of myself in the main character. Very funny.

And also:The Family Trade and The Hidden Family by Charles Stross

Non-fiction

Failure Is Not An Option, Gene Kranz
For a space nerd, this is unmissable stuff. Mission control from Mercury to Apollo, by a man who was there for all of it. For me, it hit the right balance of the technical and the personal.

100 Ways to Save the World, Johan Tell
Well intentioned, I’m sure. Not nearly honest enough about what needs to be done for my liking.

How We Know What Isn’t So, Thomas Gilovich
Another book on heuristics and biases. If you haven’t read any, you really should. The big challenge, of course, is applying the lessons to your own thinking. This is why I keep reading books from this genre – the reminders and rephrasings are useful in trying to kick my own thinking into shape.

Heat, George Monbiot
George thinks catastrophic warming can still, just about, be stopped.

The Revenge of Gaia, James Lovelock
James doesn’t. Interestingly, George Monbiot recently put aside some of his old dislike for nuclear power. I think this was overdue.

And also:Don’t Think of an Elephant! by George Lakoff and The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

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