November 27, 2017

What have I been reading?

In The Berlin Project, Gregory Benford, who is deservedly known for writing some of the best hard science fiction around, asks what would've happened if the United States had developed a nuclear bomb early enough to use it against the Nazis during World War II. The book is very well researched, well written, plausible and makes you think. What more do you want from alternate history? Recommended.

Max Steele doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page. I feel that this is an injustice and that he should be more well known, but not strongly enough to actually do something about it and start that Wikipedia entry. Also, I don't know anything about him beyond what I can guess from reading two of his books, both of which I suspect are vaguely autobiographical. Debby plausibly describes what the inner life of a person with intellectual disability might look like. However I liked the short stories in the collection The Hat of My Mother even more, and it's one of the best books I've read all year. Hat tip to my mother for recommending this one to me.

Because of where and when they're set (1930s South), Steele's books reminded me of one of my all-time favorite novels: Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe.

Mary Beard in SPQR provides an overview of the history of ancient Rome from its founding to the first century AD. She clearly knows her stuff and I learned a lot (for example I wasn't aware how much the Romans where sticklers for the rule of law), but I can't say I enjoyed the book because her prose is a little dry. If you're interested specifically in what ancient Rome can and can't teach us about what's going on with America, I highly recommend Vaclav Smil's Why America is Not a New Rome.

I picked up a copy of Vince Flynn's thriller Act of Treason that another passenger had left behind when deboarding a plane. It's a rather entertaining action novel starring the all-American CIA operative Mitch Rapp, giving some terrorists what he thinks they're deserving (death in most cases). The blurbs make it obvious who the intended audience is: Glenn Beck thinks it's "Captivating", Rush Limbaugh thinks it's "Just fabulous" and Bill O'Reilly thinks that "Every American should read this book". One good thing that came out of doing just that was that it made me avoid the Mitch Rapp movie that recently came out. Thanks Bill.

The central thesis of Iron John by Robert Bly is that men don't do themselves or society any favors by repressing their wilder side. Iron John contains some interesting ideas, but its central contradiction is that it massively, comically overthinks what it means to "be a man".

More reviews to come soon.

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