Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur, April 2011
Attention conservation notice: I have no taste.
- Agha Shahid
Nostalgist's Map of America
- Via Jon Wilkins.
- Tamim Ansary, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through
- An accurate, eloquent and humane work of popular history. It would be
unfair to call it Marshall Hodgson's The Venture of
Islam for Dummies, because it doesn't totally rely on
Hodgson and it doesn't patronize the reader, but it has something of that
flavor. Both writers emphasize the very deep historical currents which fed
into the Islamic tradition, especially in what Hodgson called the "Nile-to-Oxus
region" and Ansary dubs "the Middle World", and the larger world-historical
context, the interaction of the Muslim story with others; both devote great
attention to the various flavors of ethical conviction and spiritual and
intellectual aspiration in Islamic civilization, more or less explicitly
underscoring the variety of the ways in which people have been Muslim; both
have nuanced understandings of how tradition works, and the way any major
tradition has tremendous internal diversity, which is necessarily drawn on
selectively. (Both also give Isalm in southeast Asia, or even south Asia, less
attention than its demographic weight warrants.) Ansary, however, is much more
readable than Hodgson, even downright colloquial — and writing in the
shadow of 9/11 and the global war on terror. His book is forthrightly aimed at
promoting understanding of the Islamic world on the part of westerners, without
attempting to paper over real differences, or turn history into a succession of
mere Lessons For Our Time. I think it succeeds very well, and could well
outlast our current troubles. I recommend it strongly to anyone looking for a
popular introduction to Islamic history.
- Disclaimer: Ansary's father and my grand-father were both sent as
students from Afghanistan to the United States in the '30s, and were friends;
he is a friend of the family.
- Carrie Vaughn, After the Golden Age
- Mind-candy, but very nearly perfect mind-candy. I read it one sitting, and
wished there were more.
- Jason Shiga, Bookhunter
- The adventures of the Oakland Public Library Police, confronting a triple
locked-room book-theft mystery with the high-tech wizardry of 1973. What makes
this so delightful is that it manages to be both a hilarious parody of a
procedural and a perfectly-formed specimen of the genre.
- Jeannine Hall Gailey, Becoming the Villainess
- Poetry, re-telling classical myths, fairy-tales, comic books, etc., etc.,
with good imagery and a very distinct personality.
(The samples on her
webpage are pretty representative.) She should write more; fortunately she has
another book coming out later this year. —
And here it is.
- Warren Ellis and Amanda Conner, Two-Step
- Fun, but trifling; a light-hearted revisiting of some themes
from Transmetropolitan as a pure comedy (with lots of amusing
violence). For completist fans of Ellis and/or Connor's work.
- Chris Roberson and Michael Allred, iZombie
- Comic-book mind-candy.
- Herbert A. Simon, An Empirically-based Microeconomics
- A 2009 reprint of a 1997 book based on lectures delivered in 1993. Still
current; economists are, thankfully, paying more attention to experiments, but
still refusing to adjust their models of decision-making to accommodate
experimental findings. (Fuller comments later.)
- Patricia A. McKillip, The Bell at Sealey Head
- At one level, this is fine McKillip, if not perhaps her most compelling
story. At another, I wonder if there isn't some sort of meta-fictional
auto-critique going on. Further comments are ROT-13'd for possible spoilers.
Guvf vf gur svefg fgbel V'ir ernq ol ZpXvyyvc jurer bar bs gur punenpgref jnf,
va snpg, n jevgre, naq n jevgre bs snagnfgvp fgbevrf ng gung. Gur rpubrf
orgjrra Tjraqbyla'f fgbevrf naq gur bar ZpXvyyvc vf jevgvat srry yvxr gurl
bhtug gb zrna fbzrguvat, ohg V pna'g dhvgr fnl jung. Naq V jbaqre vs rira gur
evghnyf qrsvavat Lfnob'f irefvba bs Nvfyvaa Ubhfr ("rvgure nofheq be unhagvatyl
ribpngvir", nf bar punenpgre fnlf) ner fhccbfrq gb, va fbzr jnl, rpub
ZpXvyyvc'f bja pnerre-ybat hfr bs gur unhagvatyl ribpngvir?
Judt, Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth
- Book reviews (mostly with a heavy biographical element) and political
essays, covering a huge range of topics related to the left in the 20th
century; and what the hell we should do with ourselves now. Many of them are
from the New York Review of Each
Other's Books, with post-scripts about squabbles in the letters
column. The title's air of "I know more than you, and will now sit in
judgment" is in fact fully representative of the tone of the essays, but
Judt did know more than most of us about the history of political
ideas, and that certainly didn't make him less entitled to his
opinions than anyone with a seat at a bar (or a blog).
Books to Read While the Algae Grow in Your Fur;
Scientifiction and Fantastica;
Writing for Antiquity;
The Commonwealth of Letters;
The Progressive Forces;
The Dismal Science;
Minds, Brains and Neurons;
Pleasures of Detection, Portraits of Crime
Posted at April 30, 2011 23:59 | permanent link