Books read, early March

Becky Chambers, A Psalm for the Wild-Built. Discussed elsewhere.

Aliette de Bodard, Seven of Infinities. This is actually my second time reading this, because I also read the manuscript. It’s in the Xuya series and stands quite well on its own as a place to start those stories.

Sarah Beth Durst, Even and Odd. Discussed elsewhere.

Paul Farmer, Haiti After the Earthquake. I picked this up after being impressed with Farmer’s book about Ebola. I think he was still finding his feet here, because this reads more like a report of time on the ground for a charity than…a book with scope and perspective. And it’s interesting for that! It’s that there are areas where the focus is very different from what I expected or hoped for–it was written soon after, there was far less of the context that is more possible with time. (It is, however, no less emotionally grueling. Handle with care, as you’d expect.)

Nicole Kornher-Stace, Firebreak. Discussed elsewhere.

Annalee Newitz, Four Lost Cities: A Secret History of the Urban Age. Newitz has chosen four examples from all over the globe and time to look at why cities “die” or “get lost,” and the similarities, differences, and misconceptions are fascinating. Won’t take you long and has lots of cool tidbits.

Aimee Nezhukumatathil, World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments. Autobiographical essays with a poetic focus on natural history metaphors. This is beautifully illustrated and very short, and Nezhukumatathil’s perspective is not one that’s over-represented in American publishing by any stretch.

Janice P. Nimura, The Doctors Blackwell: How Two Pioneering Sisters Brought Medicine to Women–and Women to Medicine. I ended up finding this less interesting than I’d hoped–it does what it says on the tin, but it’s a little unfocused, a little bland. Ah well.

Ryan North, Erica Henderson, and Rico Renzi, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: My Best Friend’s Squirrel. These are all romps, but for some reason this one felt even rompier. Possibly I just read it when I most needed it. Seems like a fine place to pick up the series–there’ll be stuff that gets inclued, but I expect you’d be fine. A lot of it is handled in “in case you forgot this” comic book incluing style, which can be amusing in itself.

David Pietrusza, 1932: The Rise of Hitler and FDR: Two Tales of Politics, Betrayal, and Unlikely Destiny. This is the fourth of Pietrusza’s books on US election years, and I have read all the others (1920, 1948, and 1960). I have long said that if he does one for every election year, I will just keep reading them, and 1932 does not negate that statement, but I do think it’s the weakest of the lot for two reasons: one, he’s trying to do two political systems, not one, and there just isn’t room for as many of the neat sociopolitical tangents; and two, the fact that it is the year of both FDR and Hitler ends up deforming things in the direction of the Second World War a lot, when there’s Depression stuff that was interesting in its own right. Ah well, still a fun read.

James Rebanks, The Shepherd’s View: Modern Photographs from an Ancient Landscape. A companion photography volume for his previous prose work, which is better and more interesting.

J. R. R. Tolkien, Beowulf. I don’t see any indication that Tolkien intended this for publication, but I’m not sorry to have it in my exploration of Beowulf translations even though it is probably the worst of them so far. It contains three versions, and the one I really wanted is actually a fourth one–a colloquial Beowulf of which you can see glimpses in the translation notes. The translation notes are great, and I learned a lot, but…also they have bits of basically Gandalf-by-the-fire voice, and that would have been an interesting Beowulf. Ah well. The first one, the straight-up translation, was fairly plain, the second a re-telling and had stripped out several interesting elements, the third a short poem that stripped out even more interesting elements and…is probably going to hit you about like the rest of Tolkien’s poetry. But oh, the flashes of inspiration in the translation notes! Sigh.

Dawnie Walton, The Final Revival of Opal and Nev. Discussed elsewhere.

Walter Jon Williams, Fleet Elements. I’m afraid I no longer find this central relationship interesting, especially since it seems to return to the same misunderstandings, the same secrets, and the same will-they-won’t-they. I don’t think this one would work without the earlier parts of the series, but my recommendation if you want fun military-focused space opera is to read the early trilogy and then stop.

Ariel S. Winter, The Preserve. Short, snappy, interesting mystery about crime on a human preserve when the world is mostly populated by humanoid robots. I…have to say that I was a little put off by the fact that Winter does not seem to have considered what he was doing in the context of Native/First Nations experience. The Canadian word for “place where we shove the First Nations people” is one letter off, reserve (rather than reservation, in the US), but the entire concept was…well, it was curiously empty that way.

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