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Books: What are you reading tonight? Books: What are you reading tonight?

05-05-2024 , 12:32 PM
Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon by Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton, with Jay Barbree and Howard Benedict.

Really written by the last two--everything is in the third person. Also goes beyond the moon program, as Slayton was one of the astronauts involved in the joint Apollo/Soyuz program in the 70s.

Also has some details about the Soviet program which I didn't know.

For people who are interested in the space race, a good read with a lot of the viewpoints of those who experienced it firsthand,
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-06-2024 , 07:16 PM
Read an Ngaio Marsh mystery, #7, very good. Started there because I watched 2 eps of the series on Amazon Prime [2 seasons], at least one of which was earlier in the series and was also quite good.

She has a nice, fluid style, wrote like 32 of Inspector Alleyn mysteries and is regarded as one of the Queens of the Golden Age with Agatha, Dorothy, and Margery - for those who didn't already know her.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-10-2024 , 10:32 PM
The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride - enjoyed this a lot. It's rare to have characters and a story that are heartwarming without being mawkish, although some of the observations about racism and society aren't terribly profound. A less skilled writer only capable of more formulaic prose wouldn't be able to make this work. Fortunately McBride can write beautifully.l and powerfully.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-11-2024 , 01:24 PM
Genghis Khan & the Making of the Modern World - Jack Weatherford


interesting book but short on the specific logistical details i prefer to have

he will wholly gloss over a major conquest with a yadda yadda yadda they now controlled of Iran and then a few pages later go into great detail over another event

but I'm a bit of a nitpicker, i care far less for what the armies did and far more for how they were raised, fed, trained, and marched - i want to know how things were done and what was done which is something i can get reading the Wikipedia entry on it

nevertheless it was an excellent book, but I felt like Frankopan's Silk Roads, which only broached the Mongol Empire tangentially, did a far superior job breaking down the inner workings of the Pax Mongolica despite only occasionally leaning in their direction and more focusing on Central Asia as a region

the best part is the early sections which are extraneously detailed about his early childhood and upbringing and rise to power and dealing with local rivals - this part of the book is fantastic and has no flaws - i suspect this was his original vision but then the publishers forced him to make it grander in scale and he just didn't have the energy to continue researching to such great details - it's the latter portions of Genghis Khan which lean heavily into the yadda yadd yadda

that latter part is not structured well at all, he gives absolutely no space to any major characters until they are major so cousins and uncles and step brothers which you previously never heard of are suddenly a major force with their own army to contend with and then they are dealt with and you never hear from them again, so it's a bit disjointed and cluttered with just random npcs appearing and then disappearing for a lengthy bit until the npc named Kublai develops into a main character and doesn't get shoved aside like the rest

absolutely criminal how he glossed over the collapse, that was 100% just yadda yadda yadda and really frustrating to spend hundreds of pages reading about the building of this vast global empire and then without any details it's just mentioned that they were overthrown by the local population





3 Stars - very good but missing key info, feels unfinished and I'm sure there's better Khan books out there


Cleopatra - Stacy Schiff



this is everything i love in historical non fiction - detailed to the extreme and yet still focused on the really interesting parts - they deal with all the logistics with passages talking about sending things like fresh shipments of clothing for the troops etc etc

as someone who mostly reads non-fiction, i think schiff suffers from something many jewish historians tend to have in that they focus too much on the roles of any jews in the history they cover - she does it in a very good way, in no way are the many lengthy passages about King Herod bad or uninteresting, but it's to the point where he is as much of a central figure as Marc Antony and arguably has more written about him as well - yes he did play a real historical role in everything as was a neighbor to Egypt, but if we're going to go to this granular level of npc side quests then surely there's 50+ deserving npcs who played pivotal roles in the ensuing events and they get ignored to focus on cleopatra whereas herod gets his own chapters and regular callbacks

I hate saying this because it sounds anti-semitic, but whenever this happens I seriously wonder if x, y, z characters would have been given any of the coverage they got had they not been jewish and it makes me wonder about whether their roles were subconsciously elevated by the biased author or it is genuine - in Schiff's instance I thoroughly enjoyed the Herod bits and it felt very objectively done, but it was to the point where I began to wonder why she just didn't do a separate book on him because so much was written about him that had very little to do with Cleopatra - at least no more than any other important officials of the Mediterranean world would have made

however, to Schiff's credit, she does a good job of mentioning prominent people who were left out of the brief historical summaries because they played more of a supporting role than as a main character people like dolabella who i'd previously not heard of/remembered got a bunch of mentions and while we're never told a single thing about what Sextus Pompey did - he is mentioned a few times as an important person

but overall i love it, it's a great book than goes into granular detail, will often mention when the original sources conflict and then the author will try to break down biases each of those authors dealt with which could have perhaps steered the nature of their writing

like schiff goes into great detail and keeps it interesting and engaging throughout

5 stars - excellent book



Catherine the Great - Portrait of a Woman Robert Massie



I'm only halfway through but Massie is by far the best historical nonfiction writer I've ever read. He's absolutely amazing.

So we're dealing with Catherine's youth and we need to understand the relationship we had with her parents and who they were so now we pause on Catherine for a few chapters and just go into great details about her parents lives. Now we introduce Empress Elisabeth of Russia who wants to wed Catherine to her heir and nephew and you're like "wait wtf, none of this makes any sense, why is the Empress of Russia reaching out to some minor German aristocrat asking for their daughter?" but then just as you're beginning to wonder wtf is going on the author pauses on Catherine and now we get a full chapter on Empress Elizabeth, but we don't start with her, we need to go back to her father Peter the Great in order to understand her unique circumstances and personal relationships with Catherine's extended family which made it now make sense why Elizabeth would do what she did

just an amazing book, by far the best I've ever read - perhaps may be a little too backstory heavy for most people perhaps I'm a bit too far down the spectrum and thus like these things where others wouldn't - but what I absolutely love how in order to explain a single decision the author will go back in time 50 years and deal with the genesis and inception of the issue

just amazing

6 stars out of 5 - the perfect book
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-11-2024 , 08:49 PM
I read the Genghis Khan book when it came out and really enjoyed it. Agree with your criticisms, but it was also the easiest read on Genghis Khan.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-11-2024 , 09:38 PM
oh yeah agreed, he is a wonderful story teller, if you're ok with jumping about and skipping over stuff and getting great details on some stuff and then brief mentions of others then it's an amazing book

like my favorite part was when he described the logistical advantage of the mongol armies, how they didn't need baggage trains because all the soldiers carried their own gear and since they brought their animals with them they had mobile food, how they prepared their food, how the origin of things like steak tartar is not because they preferred raw meat but that they often didn't have wood to cook on the steppe and/or would be on the move so they'd stuff the raw meat under their saddle under it tenderized enough to be edible raw


loved how they'd send scouts ahead to find routes full of pastures for their horses and livestock and how their path of conquest followed these pastures and even more impressive, when there were no pastures, they'd literally dispatch advance units to reshape the land into pasture so next year when their army passed through that valley there'd be plenty of grass for their animals to eat


those were the parts i lived for, i just wish there were more of that

and ending it with a few lines of "and they were overthrown eventually" was just devastating to me, i'm like f me, now i need to go find another book that deals with the fall
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-11-2024 , 10:47 PM
Genghis Khan was a God! And Gods make the world worthwhile and interesting.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-12-2024 , 08:15 AM
I don't think the collapse of the Mongol empire took place during Genghis's lifetime. There is another book, The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, that covers the collapse, reemergence, and final collapse (if it did indeed take place).

I had no idea about all the competing religions being out there, and that Christianity was popular because it allowed people to drink. There is always going to be some picking and choosing when trying to cover such a vast subject.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-12-2024 , 10:26 AM
Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara

I needed a book for my hiking backpack so I went into the used bookstore looking for a small one. The old-style paperbacks are the best. I found this one--it's only ~85 pages. It's shorter than the old pocket books, but it's a little wider.

I had never heard of Frank O'Hara. Somehow I looked at his name and confused him with Eugene O'Neal. Two different guys.

Wow! How did I miss this guy? He's really really good.

I read poetry for all the wrong reasons. First, I think of them as word puzzles--sorta like reverse crosswords/Jeopardy--where you are given the answer and have to deduce the question. And secondly, I look at them the way an engineer might look at a beautiful bridge. How did this get designed? How was it constructed? How does it stay aloft with all that traffic going over it?

This book will keep me occupied for a couple of weeks, then occupy me again when I start thinking about it later. Here's a sample.

The Day Lady Died

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
three days after Bastille day, yes
it is 1959 and I go get a shoeshine
because I will get off the 4:19 in Easthampton
at 7:15 and then go straight to dinner
and I donít know the people who will feed me

I walk up the muggy street beginning to sun
and have a hamburger and a malted and buy
an ugly NEW WORLD WRITING to see what the poets
in Ghana are doing these days
I go on to the bank
and Miss Stillwagon (first name Linda I once heard)
doesnít even look up my balance for once in her life
and in the GOLDEN GRIFFIN I get a little Verlaine
for Patsy with drawings by Bonnard although I do
think of Hesiod, trans. Richmond Lattimore or
Brendan Behanís new play or Le Balcon or Les NŤgres
of Genet, but I donít, I stick with Verlaine
after practically going to sleep with quandariness

and for Mike I just stroll into the PARK LANE
Liquor Store and ask for a bottle of Strega and
then I go back where I came from to 6th Avenue
and the tobacconist in the Ziegfeld Theatre and
casually ask for a carton of Gauloises and a carton
of Picayunes, and a NEW YORK POST with her face on it

and I am sweating a lot by now and thinking of
leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT
while she whispered a song along the keyboard
to Mal Waldron and everyone and I stopped breathing
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-12-2024 , 01:11 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phat Mack
I don't think the collapse of the Mongol empire took place during Genghis's lifetime. There is another book, The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, that covers the collapse, reemergence, and final collapse (if it did indeed take place).

I had no idea about all the competing religions being out there, and that Christianity was popular because it allowed people to drink. There is always going to be some picking and choosing when trying to cover such a vast subject.
i get that, but he did cover all through kublai and then just kind of abrubtly stopped there

thanks for the rec, will add it to the list
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-12-2024 , 09:01 PM
When I was reading it I saw that some stuff didn't get fully covered, regimes in India and Persia for example, but I assumed that because he is a anthropologist rather than a historian, he didn't feel he needed them to cover the cultural influences.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-13-2024 , 07:28 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rooksx
The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride - enjoyed this a lot. It's rare to have characters and a story that are heartwarming without being mawkish, although some of the observations about racism and society aren't terribly profound. A less skilled writer only capable of more formulaic prose wouldn't be able to make this work. Fortunately McBride can write beautifully.l and powerfully.
Yes, I've read four of his novels and his memoir and all of them are solid. So far Deacon King Kong is my favourite.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-13-2024 , 11:25 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by hansmolman
Read The deluge by Stephen Markley. A truly terrifying & awesome read. Highly recommend, especially if you enjoyed The Stand.

Iím ~350 pages into this and can confirm itís pretty great.

Not gonna lie the Stephen King rec made me basically insta-purchase it.

Spoiler for first ~300 pages:

Spoiler:

lol of course King loves it - there are already 2 shoutouts to him so far:
(1) Pennywise costume at Mattís familyís Halloween party
(2) the eco-terrorists using The Stand to encrypt+decipher their messages.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-14-2024 , 09:03 AM
I waitlisted The Deluge on Libby only to find out when my turn came up that for some reason it's not available on Kindle. Epub only.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-14-2024 , 09:17 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by marknfw
I waitlisted The Deluge on Libby only to find out when my turn came up that for some reason it's not available on Kindle. Epub only.
I hate it when that happens. When I read I take lots of notes, and Kindle is the only thing I have found that handles that.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-14-2024 , 08:35 PM
You take notes!? Who the *** do you think you are! David Hume?! Even John Cole wouldn’t do anything that silly! Unless he was teaching a class. And then only because he wanted to keep his job.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-14-2024 , 08:45 PM
All the current wars are getting boring. It’s the same old thing.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-15-2024 , 08:46 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zeno
You take notes!? Who the *** do you think you are! David Hume?! Even John Cole wouldnít do anything that silly! Unless he was teaching a class. And then only because he wanted to keep his job.
It's the only way I can remember stuff.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-15-2024 , 09:02 AM
Have you ever looked into obsidian? It's changed my life because I'm an obsessive note taker and it helps to organize things.

After reading How to Take Smart Notes by Sonke Ahrens, I found it and it's incredible.


https://obsidian.md
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-15-2024 , 09:13 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bluegrassplayer
Have you ever looked into obsidian? It's changed my life because I'm an obsessive note taker and it helps to organize things.

After reading How to Take Smart Notes by Sonke Ahrens, I found it and it's incredible.


https://obsidian.md
I wish I'd read Smart Notes 60 years ago. They were always harping on taking them, but never explained how.

If this is the same as Readwise Obsidian, yours is the 2nd strong recommendation I've received in the last few days. I'll have to check it out.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-15-2024 , 09:21 AM
It looks like readwise is a plug-in for obsidian, I'll check it out. Thanks.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-15-2024 , 11:13 AM
The Anxious Generation - i guess I could describe it a few ways but basically it’s why kids shouldn’t have smartphones and social media until later in life and how these things have ****ed up kids’ childhoods and caused a youth mental health epidemic.

As a dad to an 8yo and 5yo it’s terrifying when half my 8yo’s class has a phone and he’s starting to ask…
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-15-2024 , 11:14 AM
Table for Two by Amor Towles - nice collection of short fiction. They all seem to end before I want them to, which I guess is a good sign.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-15-2024 , 01:53 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wyman
The Anxious Generation - i guess I could describe it a few ways but basically it’s why kids shouldn’t have smartphones and social media until later in life and how these things have ****ed up kids’ childhoods and caused a youth mental health epidemic.

As a dad to an 8yo and 5yo it’s terrifying when half my 8yo’s class has a phone and he’s starting to ask…
I haven’t read this but the author was a recent guest on Conversations with Tyler (Cowen) and the author was excellent - his claims seemed very well researched (e.g. had the research to back up “why not age 16 instead of 14” for various mental health stats).

Was one of the few Tyler guests where I found myself disagreeing with what Tyler was trying to argue.

EDIT: I was on the toilet and started replaying the podcast bcz I was curious… I lol-ed because the author initially comes off pretty fiery with “conservatives are better parents” but it’s worth sticking around for the whole convo.

Last edited by PocketInfinities; 05-15-2024 at 02:03 PM.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote
05-15-2024 , 05:11 PM
Christie Mairy's own Double-Entry, by B. S. Johnson.

Funny little book. A light-hearted account of mass murder. I didn't like it much at first, but it grew on me. I hadn't heard of the author, but apparently he was well-known and successful, and committed suicide, aged 40, in Dagmar Terrace in Islington in 1973, the same year the book was published. Give me London 1973, and in fairness the Angry Brigade do make an appearance. Just children. The author keeps breaking character, and the final pages are dialogue between him and Christie, and with hindsight one realizes that this is a work of a suicidal mind.
Books: What are you reading tonight? Quote

      
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